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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.77 (1878) [41.30]
Brigitte Lang (violin)
Baden-Baden Philharmonic/Werner Stiefel
Sonata in F minor for Viola and Piano Op.120 No.1 (1894) [23.08]
Simone Jandl (viola)
Barbara Uszynska (piano)
Part of a concert sponsored by Lions Club International on 1 November 2002 in the Kurhaus Weinbrennsaal, Baden-Baden, Germany, on 1 November 2002
5th Carl Flesch Academy Lions Prizewinners’ Concert. (in collaboration with the Carl Flesch Academy International Master Course, Baden-Baden, Germany)
Insert booklet in German only
BELLA MUSICA BM31.2361 [61.04]


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A small German spa town even during one of the prestigious Carl Flesch International Music Weeks is not, perhaps, the first place to think of looking for a benchmark performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto. This time it certainly is. Maybe we are no longer surprised by the incredibly high standards achieved by the young prodigies now appearing on concert platforms and leading CD labels; but occasionally they can be compared without reservation to great names from the past. The young Swiss violinist Brigitte Lang is one such, and, by extraordinary good fortune, the other Brahms work on this disc receives a comparably brilliant reading, enhanced by sensitive, well-rehearsed orchestral playing. The ‘noises off’ and audio imbalance sometimes found in live performances are also mercifully absent.

There is no shortage of energy in the Concerto’s first movement, and the rhapsodic violin passages that flower in concertante passages and cadenzas are well cared for by Lang’s expressive, well-projected playing. A little too smooth. compared with the more masculine attack of a Kogan or a Heifetz? Maybe, but this is a wonderfully coherent interpretation that sees the work as an organic whole. The final movement can sound far from giocoso in lesser performances, but here it is handled with consummate élan. Throughout, the orchestra contributes powerfully to the most convincing Brahms Violin Concerto I have heard for a very long time.

Compared with the violin the viola rarely gets much of the limelight. Simone Jandl has already had many successes in international competitions and, though I must declare a personal preference for the clarinet version of the Op.120, she makes a convincing case for the instrument’s darker sound. The result is a performance that reveals aspects of this beautiful work not always possible with the cooler voice of the clarinet. Thanks, also, to the sensitive contribution of the pianist the ‘inwardness’ of this late work is thoroughly explored in a beautifully balanced performance that can be highly recommended. It would be unfortunate if this German-made CD does not reach the major catalogues and receive the wider distribution it richly deserves.


Roy Brewer



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