> Dvorak Violin Concerto Accardo [JW]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)

Scottish Fantasy

Salvatore Accardo, violin
Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis (Dvořák)

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig conducted by Kurt Masur
Recorded 1978 (Dvorak) 1980 (Bruch)
ELOQUENCE PHILIPS 468 308-2 [62.28]

Accardo is a splendidly satisfying soloist. His Paganini recordings are a discographic milestone and his Bruch set with Masur, of which the Scottish Fantasy forms part, opened more than one pair of ears to the depth and breadth of Bruch’s imaginative understanding of the concerto or Konzertstück. This Eloquence disc intelligently brings together two works with folk affiliations and the pairing is mutually beneficial not least for the convincing nature of the recordings and the attractive playing of the soloist.

The Dvořák is probably the better-known recording, much lauded when it first appeared and generally held to be superior to the almost contemporaneous Perlman disc. I have my doubts. Accardo is certainly heart felt, his lyricism effortlessly yielding, his tone attractive and pliant and in the first movement his control of dynamics is excellent. The episode where the violin muses with woodwind counter themes, flute shadowing the fiddle, oboe carrying the melody before the violin returns with its gravely beneficent song, is attractively done. The Concertgebouw principals are in top form, alive to the chamber intimacies, and the mosaic of sound colours they impart to the fabric of the score is truly impressive. Davis, whose Dvořák symphony recordings are famous, is a solicitous conductor, generous and imaginative, who holds alertly to his soloist’s line. In the second movement the violin’s songful wisps of melody and effortless trills are convincingly handled as are the brass led section leading to a folk dance and beautiful intensification of feeling and tone. All this is so graciously and affectingly done that it seems churlish to wish for the kind of conducting that Walter Süsskind provided in this work – pliant within an essentially fast tempo, sectionally related, never sagging, inflections without ostentation, with a memorably cohesive view of the work as a whole. In the rustic finale there is really never quite the adrenalin one can get in the very best performances. Accardo is predictably fine here, of course, and his phrasing is rhythmically pointed and involved but the sheer brio of Josef Suk’s recording is unmatched; it’s not leaden, not by a long way, but it doesn’t dance and drive as it could or, maybe, should.

If you know only the Heifetz and Perlman recordings of the Scottish Fantasy – two stunning accounts – you may not have moved afield to investigate Accardo and Masur. And that, I think, would be a pity. Firstly Accardo plays with dignity, expressivity and attractive, never opulent but always sensitive, tone. He is never dead centre in the note as Heifetz was and doesn’t engage in the spine-tinglingly luscious expressive devices that the older man did. But his own aesthetic is more restrained, less sensuous and less overtly theatrical. And then there is Masur and the Gewandhaus. Theirs is a stellar contribution, with fantastic richness in the strings, especially lower strings, and they bring out counter and subsidiary themes and motifs that would otherwise escape notice or be consumed in less sensitive, less understanding hands. Masur is an ex string player and it shows. The exchanges between violin and high woodwind in the Scherzo are fantastically effective and exciting. I capitulated entirely in the transition from the little Adagio section to the Andante sostenuto and listened in unbounded admiration to the sheer musicality and unforced lyricism of the playing, to the shading of string accompaniment and the woodwind patterns behind Accardo’s pirouetting and quickly trilling violin. The finale similarly is notable for the incendiary chugging basses – how often does one hear string clarity of this kind – the open hearted playing of soloist and superb orchestral support. Every mood and motion of the movement is prepared for and executed with affectionate understanding, instrumental reminiscences mused upon but never imposed, the strings’ monumental certainties answered by the soloist’s more uncertain reflections, all held together with pliant understanding.

A fine disc, the Dvořák is attractive but the Bruch is memorable. With so many confluences of tensile strength and pliancy, folk-like simplicity and architectural surety this is a desirable coupling. I would buy it for the Bruch alone.

Jonathan Woolf



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