> Beethoven Mendelssohn - Violin Concertos [TB]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 61
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64
Monica Huggett (violin)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Sir Charles Mackerras
Rec 24-25 Nov 1992, Henry Wood Hall, Southwark (Beethoven), 20-21 Oct 1992, Blackheath Concert Halls (Mendelssohn)


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Previously available on EMI Eminence, these interesting performances return in this nicely presented CFP issue, complete with refurbished sound and the same excellent notes by Wadham Sutton.

Monica Huggett is a violinist who has played an important role in the development of performing styles appropriate to the baroque and classical periods. Her performances of these popular concertos confirm her artistry and her technique, as well as offering many insights into the music.

A particular feature of both performances is the balance between solo and ensemble. It seems to be written into the contracts of many recording artists that concerto performances must feature the soloist centre-stage in a larger-than-life perspective. That is not so here, since the balances seem precisely those which one would encounter in a small to middling size concert hall - the sort of hall that the composers would surely have had in mind.

Having said that, there is room for a larger-scale concept than these performances create. If anything the vision here is under-stated, and many other soloists will give the listener a greater sense of interpretation and vision. Perhaps the orchestral sound has something to do with it too. The opening timpani taps in the Beethoven don't have a particularly pleasing sound, nor does the tutti which follows, and the ear takes a little while to get used to the 'period' flavour of the tone quality. Of course this all suits the lighter sound that Huggett produces, too, but it is not as tonally pleasing as the music can be.

Once the Beethoven really gets under way - it is, after all, a big piece - it generates a compelling intensity, and the solo line is nicely characterised, not least in the fluent music of the slow movement. Huggett plays her own cadenzas, which are very much in keeping with the nature of her performance, which brings satisfaction if it does not uplift the soul.

The Mendelssohn Concerto also starts problematically before developing a more positive view. Huggett's phrasing of the glorious tune with which Mendelssohn begins does not quite have the natural flow the music needs, and the same might be said of the slow movement too. However, there are many compensations, particularly in the clear articulation of the faster music. Although one would hesitate to recommend this as a first choice recording, the performances do have many insights and abundant interest.

Terry Barfoot

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