Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Viktoria Mullova Plays the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto
Viktoria Mullova (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
rec Boston, Oct 1985
PHILIPS 50 464 741-2 [66.34]
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This is, as the Scots say, a well-kent coupling. It reminds us of the strong slender tone of young Viktoria Mullova - about whom we hear little these days. She had just left the USSR in the shadowlands between Soviet decay and the falling of walls. Her arrival in the West provoked a minor media-fest. I recall a programme (several I think) on BBC following her progress in the New World.

In the Tchaikovsky her violin technique produces some lovely legato cantilena (e.g. at 4.47 in the Allegro moderato). Her vibrato is hardly there at all remaining always under tight control. In the spectacular passages she does not have the definition of the very greatest such as Oistrakh or Kogan both of whom generate more sheer adrenalin than is on call here. I must not forget to mention the lusciously over the top recording by Campoli on Beulah - corrupt edition and all - but technicolour performance.

The Sibelius announces itself with a true whisper level pianissimo. Some lovely suave playing as at 0208 in the first movement recalling that Sibelius, at the time of writing, the concerto had only lately forsaken his early dreams of becoming a violin virtuoso. There is some touching orchestral playing in the adagio di molto and Mullova and the orchestra really excel in blood-stirring. The blatting horns behind the rumbustious dance at 1.40 in the Finale register amiably. She reminded me a little of my favourite Spivakovsky (Everest) but the sound and the orchestral contribution is superior to the Spivakovsky's collaborators. The Sibelius is a very fine performance and is not be forgotten in the welter of new releases and recycled back catalogue.

The liner notes are short but the playing time is very respectable for this series. The DDD recording holds up excellently.

While not displacing my reference recording, Oistrakh (BMG), Mullova and Ozawa have a lot to tell us about both works. I see this recording returning to my CD player for pleasure in future.

Rob Barnett

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