Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

KARL GOLDMARK (1830-1915) Violin Concerto (1877) Prometheus Bound Overture (1889)   Sarah Chang (violin) Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker/James Conlon   EMI CLASSICS CDC5 56955 2 [54.25]

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Rather than deride Ms Chang (as one critic did in relation to her recent EMI Classics recording of the Richard Strauss Concerto) for selecting a concerto outside the usual war-herd I would like to praise her for the sense of adventure she has shown.

She is more fortunate in the Goldmark than she is in the Strauss. While the Strauss work had its moments, the Goldmark is consistently stronger without being in the absolute front rank. The happiness of the Goldmark concerto is akin to the Dvorak, Beethoven and Glazunov concertos rather than the Brahms and the Tchaikovsky. A smile beams out unmistakably from this music making. After a middle movement of sensitivity and fastidiously generous sentiment Chang soars and sings her way through the finale in a dashingly festive meld of Beethoven and Smetana.

The Concerto has had several recordings over the years and is gaining ground in the virtuoso 'stakes'. The classic stereo recording (by which I grew to know the piece) is Nathan Milstein; Philharmonia Orchestra/Harry Blech on Testament SBT1047 (from an HMV LP SXLP30193). Competing versions include: Nai-Yuan Hu/Seattle SO/Gerard Schwarz. Delos DE3156, Perlman, Pittsburgh SO, Previn EMI CDC7 47846-2 and Alberto Kocsis; Savaria SO/János Petró Hungaroton White Label HRC162. Most recently Joshua Bell (a first class player) has recorded the Goldmark and Sibelius on Sony Classical SK65949 and at least one review speaks very highly of the disc. I know only the Milstein which is a very special case.

Prometheus Bound darkens the scene in a way suggestive of Mendelssohn's overture Ruy Blas. A long introduction prepares the ground for what seems to be an evocation of a wander through German romantic territory: dark forests and craggy wooded promontories. This is a slightly Wagnerian mixture subsiding into sleep. It is ultimately over-extended in relation to its ideas but is impressive in the atmosphere it generates.

Apart from the odd lack of polish from the orchestra this can now take a proud place among the modern versions.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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