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CASKEN Violin Concerto

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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 53 (1882) [30:52]
Piano Concerto in G minor Op. 33 (1876) [38:49]
Waldesruhe (Klid or Silent Woods) Op. 68, No. 5 (1891 arrangement of the fifth piece from Ze Šumavy (From the Bohemian Forest) of 1883-84 for piano 4-hands Op.68 [5:20]
Christian Tetzlaff (violin); Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Libor Pešek
Claire Désert (piano); Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Theodore Guschlbauer
Timothy Walden (cello); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Libor Pešek
No recording details (1994-96)
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3913462 [75:17]
Experience Classicsonline


As I wrote in my review of Sarah Chang’s recording of the concerto, both her own and Christian Tetzlaff’s performances are newly reissued. Chang’s is unchanged but this Tetzlaff has undergone programming alteration. Gone is his Lalo and in comes Claire Désert’s traversal of the piano concerto and a makeweight in the shape of Klid. Be it noted, as they say, that the Tetzlaff performance is greatly to be preferred to the Chang.
 
He avoids the temptation to slow, as Chang and Davis fail to do, for the first movement second theme and he keeps things moving. He’s strongly helped by Pešek who ensures dynamics are naturally scaled and who also takes care to balance things in the sometimes tricky Rudolfinum acoustic. Tetzlaff has a tight bright tone and he cuts through the orchestration with real incisiveness. Pešek shows himself to be a far more watchful and astute Dvořákian than Davis as he builds and releases tension whilst maintaining strong rhythmic profiles. As a result the performance has an internal dynamism and a degree of radiance that Chang’s lacks.
 
There have been a number of recommendable recordings of the Concerto in the last decade and a half – let alone the classic Suk/Ančerl, Milstein (with de Burgos and Dorati) and the various surviving commercial and off-air performances by one of its greatest champions Vása Příhoda. Suffice to say that Tetzlaff is commendably quick on his feet – fast but not at all superficial - and plays with spirit, tone and imagination, well seconded by the orchestra.
 
But of course things aren’t quite that simple. I’d never even heard of this Strasbourg performance of the Piano Concerto, though Claire Désert is becoming better and better known as a soloist. She plays with musicality and finish but vital things are missing. The opening of the concerto is badly balanced - horn-swamped - and there’s an endemic lack of optimum string subtlety throughout the recording. I don’t know how often, if at all, Désert had performed this in concert before recording it but her entries can sound wooden and uninflected. The opening entry should generate tension and use rubato – see Firkušny, Maxian and Moravec who all, in their very different ways, launch the concerto with tension. And she is far too slow in the second movement; most Czech performers take it considerably quicker and bring a more touching sense to it. So this is a rather routine performance; not really recommendable.
 
Klid receives a pliant if somewhat nasal reading from Timothy Walden.
 
This is marketed as a “Dvořák Concertos” disc. The Violin Concerto scores highly amongst contemporary performances but the Piano companion won’t really do. I hope that Tetzlaff’s performance doesn’t suffer accordingly in the marketplace – the money saving booklet (three weedy paragraphs) and the supermarket style cover art do not at all reflect his intelligence and perception.
 
Jonathan Woolf 
 



 


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