The Tempest - Incidental Music, op.129: Prelude; Suites 1 and
Violin Concerto in D minor, op.47 (1)
Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin)
(1); Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
Hänssler CD 98.353
UK Amazon USA
Sibelius has not been prominent in Marriner's vast recorded output, but the
powerful build-up of the Prelude's opening paragraph, and the masterly control
of the long diminuendo that follows, silences all doubts. Thereafter Sir
Neville realises Sibelius's pastel colours with great sensitivity and shows
a real feeling for how the music moves, letting it unfold at its own inevitable
pace. The recording is spacious and clear.
The violin concerto brings a few problems. Sitkovetsky has been recorded
very close and the fruity intensity of his tone becomes a little wearing.
The orchestra in comparison appears somewhat recessed, with the lower strings
almost inaudible. With the volume as high as I dared I found myself appreciating
the orchestra more. I have the greatest respect for the work of the producer,
Andrew Keener, and I wonder if the apparent imbalance does not in fact reflect
the contrast between an ultra-sensitive conductor and a red-blooded soloist.
For it is evident that the two do not agree. The solo passages and the orchestral
episodes simply do not go at the same tempo, and since the violinist has
a tendency to slow down further while the conductor is inclined to tighten
up, developing a powerful momentum which the soloist then dissipates, the
first movement just falls apart. In the slow movement this matters less and
there are many expressive moments to be enjoyed while in the finale the
persistent orchestral rhythms, very well articulated by Marriner, keep the
soloist on the straight and narrow. So the performance ends up more of a
success than one feared.
For a comparison I reminded myself of the Ferras/Karajan (DG). Here is a
violinist with more personality to his tone. Its silvery nervousness may
not be to everybody's taste but for better or worse it remains in the mind
after the performance is over. I also found a better balance with the orchestra
and a more unified approach, though Marriner's sharper rhythms in the finale
lead me to prefer the new version in that movement.
One last practical comment; the booklet is very informative but most listeners
presumably wouldn't read it every time they get the record out. So could
Hänssler not have found the space somewhere on the cover to tell the
user that the concerto starts at track 19 (this information is to be found
only on p.4 of the booklet)?