Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms * Bartok: Bartok Violin Concerto No 1, Sz36

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms * Bartok: Bartok Violin Concerto No 1, Sz36

Article excerpt

Brahms * Bartok [G] Bartok Violin Concerto No 1, Sz36 (a) Brahms Violin Concerto, Op 77 (b)

Janine Jansen vn (a) London Symphony Orchestra; (b) Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Sir Antonio Pappano Decca (F) 478 8412DH (59' * DDD) (a) Recorded live at Santa Cecilia Hall, Rome, February 21, 23 & 24, 2015

Brahms

Violin Concerto, Op 77 (a). String Quintet No 2, Op 111 (b) Antje Weithaas vn Camerata Bern AVI Music (F) AVI8553328 (68' * DDD)

Recorded live at (a) Kulturcasino, Bern, (b) Radlostudio, Zurich, December 2014

On record at least, Brahms's two piano Concertos have long been a largely male Preserve. Not so the Violin Concerto, some Of whose most persuasive interpreters--from Ginette Neveu in the 1940s to Janine Jansen on this latest recording--have been Women. Antje Weithaas might also be Thought worthy of a place in the pantheon were it not for her bizarre decision to record the concerto without a conductor.

Janine Jansen gives us a lyric reading of rare inwardness and beauty. Such is the tenderness of her playing and the fineness with which she delineates solo lines over which Brahms has strewn words such as lusingando and leggiero ed espressivo (grazioso), you might think her performance too much resembles Keats's 'still unravished bride of quietness'. In fact, it is a performance that marries meditation with motion, such is the suppleness of Jansen's and Pappano's feel for the concerto's larger symphonic movement and the hand-inglove relationship that exists between soloist, conductor and Pappano's superbly responsive Santa Cecilia orchestra.

It is Weithaas's conductorless performance which repeatedly threatens to come to a standstill. What's more, for all the ravishment of her playing, Jansen never threatens to hog the limelight, whereas the conductorless performance, in its very nature perhaps, too often sounds like a sonata for solo violin to which an orchestra has been unaccountably added.

Jansen and Pappano continue their persuasive ways in the Adagio, which is lovingly realised at not too slow a tempo. After which they plausibly opt for an essentially jocund way with the Hungarian finale, avoiding that darker element in the music--what Malcolm MacDonald has called its 'curious earthy stateliness'--that you will hear in Anne-Sophie Mutter's epic 1981 recording with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. …

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