WORKS: Bernstein: Serenade Barber: Violin Concerto; Bloch: Baal Shem
PERFORMER: Vadim Gluzman (violin); São Paulo SO/John Neschling
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1662 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Isaac Stern’s classic accounts the Bernstein Serenade and Barber Violin Concerto recorded for CBS (now Sony) with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein at their most incandescent, remain unsurpassed. In, for example, the gentle opening of the Barber, Stern sings every phrase with a captivating emotional sincerity.
Yet whatever the superlative quality of these performances, CBS’s highlighted orchestral perspectives, with Stern well to the fore, impart an imposing physicality that never really allows the music to relax sufficiently.
Enter Vadim Gluzman with John Neschling and the São Paulo SO, whose less overtly intense and volatile approach to these magnificent scores has been captured in exemplary sound by Ulf Schneider, which becomes particularly alluring when experienced in SACD surround sound.
By keeping the music on more of an emotional even keel, Gluzman avoids the coruscating peaks and troughs of the performance, to create a more profound sense of musical continuity. As a result, the finale’s Prokofiev-like rhythmic drive feels more a natural outcome of what has gone before, in contrast to Stern’s manic moto perpetuo in overdrive.
If anything the contrasts become even more startling in the Bernstein, in which Gluzman exchanges Stern’s neo-Romantic thrust for a lithe purity that balances the alternating innocence and experience of this remarkable score on a knife’s edge.
Gluzman is at his very finest in the Bloch, soaring aloft with a heart-warming intensity that captures the music’s melodic plangency to perfection. Julian Haylock