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Jan SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor op.47 (1903) [31:50]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Violin Concerto in D major op.35* (1878) [38:00]
Vadim Brodsky (violin)
Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra/Jerzy Salwarowski, Antoni Wit*
No recording dates or location but ©1986

Don’t turn up your volume if the opening of the Sibelius sounds distant, for this is a recording with a wide dynamic range (a little too much in the Tchaikovsky, I thought) and this opening is properly soft for once. Indeed, it’s magical, the silvery violin wafting in over the ethereal string chords, and sets the tone for a performance with plenty of space around it, not lacking vitality but alive with the majesty of nature. The finale is not hurried, the "polonaise for polar bears" (Tovey’s description) implacable in its menace. All the same, it is the poetry of the lonely open spaces which lingers in the mind. Collaboration with the conductor is close.

Much the same approach informs the Tchaikovsky – the change of conductor makes no apparent difference. The orchestral tuttis in the first movements may seem to you slower than usual, but this is because the conductor is avoiding the usual big difference between the soloist’s main tempo and the orchestra’s. There is no suggestion of heaviness and I like the steadiness with which it unfolds. However, in this concerto the soloist is rather more generous with his rubato, sometimes holding up a single note in a phrase, so if you have strong feelings about this then be warned. In such romantic music I thought it just within acceptable limits. The "Canzonetta" is most touching and the finale then takes off at a very fast speed indeed. The episodes often slow down considerably so again, if you prefer the music dashing and dancing right through, you have been warned. Though there may not be any authority for such a wide range of speeds, I must say that these performers find a range of expression in a movement which can sometimes seem a bit lightweight. I didn’t find this a display of prima donna egoism – the performers sound genuinely dedicated to the music.

I must say this was a new violinist to me – the conductor of the Sibelius was new to me too – and we don’t get any information at all, though the booklet gives quite a full commentary on the music. But don’t ever imagine that unknown performers are necessarily inferior to known ones – without displacing the time-honoured favourite versions there’s abundant poetry and musicianship here. I’ve tried to describe the sort of performances they are, so if what I’ve said above appeals, you should find this a very satisfying record.

Christopher Howell




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