Tchaikovsky: Violin concerto
WORKS: Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35; Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
PERFORMER: Nicola Benedetti (violin); Czech PO/Jakub Hrusa
CATALOGUE NO: DG 476 4092
Jakub Hrusa and the Czech Philharmonic don’t hang around at the opening of the Tchaikovsky, as so many do: this is plainly going to be a real allegro moderato. And Nicola Benedetti’s in tune with that, playing with some urgency and forward thrust.
Her tone is beautiful, and more varied than in some of her earlier recordings: she can be caressing, incisive and yielding within a short space of time. But phrasing and rubato are sometimes a little mechanical, and some of the more virtuoso passages need even more flair – in the first movement, for example, the cadenza doesn’t reach the heights of David Oistrakh or Nathan Milstein, and the final section finds her highest notes lacking bite.
This is also a problem in the finale, where, despite a high level of energy, there isn’t enough weight of tone, and some of the passagework lacks depth. The slow movement is the most successful, not just from her, but also in the lovely wind solos from the orchestra.
Their plangent sound makes the opening of the Bruch a delight, and Benedetti’s first entry responds to that. This isn’t as big a concerto as the Tchaikovsky, and it suits her better: again it’s the lyrical passages that come off best, but there’s a little too much sitting down in the finale, and the more virtuoso passages sometimes sound just a little uncomfortable.
The recording is honest, and doesn’t place Benedetti too much to the forefront of the picture, but ultimately these are good, serviceable performances – no more, no less. Martin Cotton