This is not the first
time that the Joachim concerto has been
recorded. I recall Aaron Rosand recording
it for Vox when it was released on LP
during the 1970s and this reappeared
on a CD reissue during the early 1990s.
In any event this is the first time
the two concertos have been coupled
together. Each concerto is allocated
its own disc but the price is set at
For the Brahms concerto,
you can programme your player to choose
the cadenza by either Rachel Barton
[6:18] modestly tracked at the end of
the concerto or Joachim [5:25]. Ms Barton
alternates the familiar Joachim cadenza
with her own together with those by
Maud Powell, Kreisler and Ysaye. It
is a pity that Cedille were not able
to add these to the disc as well.
The recording quality
and playing of this great orchestra
is rapturously attractive. The affluent
sonic qualities of Chicago Symphony
Hall are attested to time and again.
Listen for example to the velvety resonance
of the Hall at the end of both the finale
and the long, almost thirty minute,
first movement of the Joachim.
The first thing that
strikes you about the Joachim is that,
like the Brahms, the Joachim has a longish
orchestral introduction before the soloist
enters. The skirling attack demanded
of the soloists is also common to both
works as is the zigeuner liveliness
of the writing.
The lives of Brahms
and Joachim are a close weave. They
first met in 1853 when Joachim was a
young celebrity and Brahms was pretty
much unknown. They became close friends,
corresponded extensively and shared
rooms in Göttingen. Brahms thought
highly of Joachim's music. It was Joachim
who premiered the Brahms work in Leipzig
on New Year's Day 1879. Joachim helped
correct and shape the concerto during
1878 until it emerged in the form we
Joachim wrote his Second
Violin Concerto between 1854 and 1860
and it premiered in Hanover. While it
was given exalted praise during Joachim's
lifetime it has rather fallen into the
background. It now emerges as a far
from vacuous display piece. Indeed its
mien is seriously lyrical, related more
to the Beethoven concerto than to things
like the Zigeunerweisen of Sarasate.
Of course it has meed of gypsy paprika
as in 7:30 of the second movement and
in the white-hot flight of the start
of the finale where fire brands and
sparks fly in all directions. At 2:47
in that movement one can hear the same
bloodline that gave birth to Brahms'
Hungarian Dances. Ms Barton is extremely
impressive and conjures up a raptly
peaceful spell in the first movement.
Barton and Kalmar cleave
to the broad approach in the Brahms
Concerto. As a reading it does not lack
fire but when the sunny, contented peaceful
moods come, as in the slow movement,
Barton has the listener basking in the
unhurried warmth of the writing. In
the finale the sparks fly and the orchestral
brass shine delivering a real bark in
the closing measures.
Ms Barton's affinity
with both works can be traced back via
her teacher Werner Scholz who was a
pupil of Gustav Havemann who, in turn,
was taught by Joachim. In addition she
tells us that in preparing her performance
of the Brahms she studied Joachim's
essay on the work in his Violinschule.
Ms Barton plays the
'ex-Soldat' Guarneri del Gesu, Cremona,
1742. The reference is to Marie Soldat
(1863-1955) an intimate within Brahms'
'inner-circle'. Soldat is bound up in
the history of the Brahms concerto.
She studied it with both Joachim and
Brahms. She introduced it to many European
cities notably to Vienna in 1885 with
Hans Richter conducting the Vienna Phil.
Joachim was her conductor when she gave
what was only the second performance
of the work in Berlin. Ms Barton's sound
using this instrument is the antithesis
of that produced by say Kyung-Wha Chung
or Viktoria Mullova. It is sleeker,
fatter, more ripe than slender - very
agreeable and memorable.
Clearly this was no
mere stop-gap project. The expense must
have been considerable and was made
possible by a generous grant from the
Ms Barton contributes
the very full notes and I have drawn
on these for this review.
An utterly satisfying
and imaginative coupling, agreeably
priced. It introduces a novelty that
is far from being ‘a piece of fluff’
and adds to it a weightily estimable
performance of the Brahms.