Strauss: Violin Concerto in D minor; Violin Sonata in E flat

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D minor; Violin Sonata in E flat
PERFORMER: Sarah Chang (violin); Bavarian RSO/Wolfgang Sawallisch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56870 2
With so much vital repertoire to choose from, and so little in either work that sloughs off Strauss’s musically conservative upbringing, this is an odd disc for the undeniably gifted Sarah Chang to make early in her career. Sawallisch’s Straussian wisdom might have been one good reason. He’s surprisingly robust in guiding Chang through the early Concerto: the rounding-off of the first movement’s exposition and coda are done with real spirit, and after passing off the impersonated melancholy of the slow movement for the real thing, soloist and conductor share real scherzando wit in the finale, perhaps the best of the generic three. The work has had more good performances than it really deserves, but this is better than any.

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Chang’s forthright vibrato is less of an asset in the Sonata, especially in misalliance with Sawallisch’s much too reticent role as pianist. Here, fanciful is best as Strauss toys delightfully with the return of his second-movement melody; but the big-boned gestures of the outer movements need the creative teamwork of a more evenly matched pair like Chung and Zimerman on DG. Signs of the times, incidentally, surface not so much in rather low-key booklet photography but in the crediting of three image stylists and ‘creative direction’ at the expense of any information about the recording team. David Nice