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Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876-1909)
Violin Concerto in A major Op. 8 (1902) [27.00]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Ballade in G minor Op. 16 No. 1 (1871) [11.25]
Violin Concerto in C major Op. 30 (1882) [34.13]
Tasmin Little (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Rec. Caird Hall, Dundee, 11-12 Sept 2003
HYPERION CDA67389 [72.38]

This is Volume 4 in Hyperionís Romantic Violin Concerto line a series proceeding at a much more measured pace than their Romantic Piano Concerto sequence. I wonder why. Is it difficult to find capable violinists to tackle rare concertos? Is it more expensive to record them? Who knows? In any event I hope that Hyperion will eventually get to the concertos by Haydn Wood, de Boeck, Atterburg, Arthur Benjamin, Haakon Børresen, Dohnanyi, Ernst Herman Meyer, Peterson-Berger, Leroy Robertson, Othmar Schoeck, Karl Weigl, Leo Sowerby and Grace Williams; some of these are more romantic than others.

The music of Karłowicz is doing rather well at present and it deserves to. His Violin Concerto is a work combining the dramatic virtuosity and stormy mien of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the sweetly-intoned romance of the Bruch and Glazunov. Its melodies are memorable; superior for example to anything in the Saint-Saëns concertos if not to Caprice Andalou, Havanaise and Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Grandeur is very much in the air at the start of the Karłowicz with a gesture similar to the majestic ceremonial fanfare of the Tchaikovsky Second Piano Concerto.

The Hyperion version is taken quite quickly and it is probably the Karłowiczís best recording, certainly its freshest sounding. The concerto is given a winged performance at 27 minutes, outpacing the Polish competition without gabble or any sense of breathless compression. Amongst the other versions there is little to choose. There is a Polskie Nagrania Muza CD version where the brilliant soloist is Wanda Wiłkomirska, recorded in 1963 with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Witold Rowicki. I also have Kulka's 1979 recording where the conductor was Rowicki again. That is on a long-gone AAD Olympia CD (OCD304). It still sounds rather good if thinner sounding when compared with the opulence to be had on the very recent CD Accord version. I also have a CDR of CDM LDC 278 1088 in which Kaja Danczowska plays the work with the Polish Radio Orchestra, Cracow. The Danczowska is certainly impressive but Little is given a clearer and more immediate sound that reaches out needily towards the listener. Little is not merely capable but brilliant. She projects a fleshily splendid tone and has technical flair to spare. This all adds up to a feel-good performance.

Little's first movement is the quickest version overall at 12.26. The 1979 Kulka times at 31.10 for the whole work and the 1963 Wiłkomirska at 30.31 although Wiłkomirska takes about the same time as Little in the final vivace. Wiłkomirska emphasises every contour and throatily relishes the textures. Her orchestra is placed a little in the background and of course the sound is by no means as refined and pleasing as the Hyperion although it is gripping in a not wholly naturalistic way.

The Moszkowski Ballade is a sweet confection, nostalgic and free-winging with more poetic repose than fiery action. Martin Eastick in his notes hits the nail on the head when he refers to the music as affable; that it certainly is. It also sports some Elgarian self-satisfaction (tr.4 6.20).

Now let's take the concerto, dedicated to Emile Sauret who premiered the work in Berlin in 1883. This was once available in a different performance on Koch International. Moszkowski does not aim for high passions, eternal verities and tragic extremes. The middle movement has the sweet contentment of Bruch and the serenity of Beethoven and Brahms. There are even presentiments of the Elgar concerto. The finale is a devil's galop of a romp - perpetuum mobile in character. It coruscates at hell-for-leather pace and must present major technical challenges. These are tossed aside with bravado. Tasmin Little throws down the gauntlet to anyone contemplating a competing version.

This is not the first Moszkowski entry in Hyperionís Romantic Concertos series. Early on they recorded the Piano Concerto in E major, Op. 59 with Paderewskiís Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17. Piers Lane (piano); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Jerzy Maksymiuk. Hyperion CDA66452 review.

This disc is the most impressive instalment in the Hyperion romantic violin concerto series; superb and most beautifully recorded and played. It is cause for wonder that Tasmin Little has been prepared to invest precious time and dedication in recording these cinderellas of the repertoire. I hope she realises that the listening public is grateful.

The notes are by the redoubtable Martin Eastick and are well up to Hyperionís usual; high standards.

By now I must have played this disc at least ten times for the sheer pleasure of the experience. Do give these two 'unknowns' a try.

Rob Barnett

HYPERIONís Romantic Violin Concerto Series

Vol 1. Saint-Saëns Concertos 1-3 - Graffin CDA67074
Vol 2. Stanford: Concerto; Suite; Marwood. CDA67208
Vol 3. Hubay Concertos 3-4, Variations. Hagai Shaham CDA67367

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