A welcome release from the Chandos label of two of Dvořák’s concertos. Both are overshadowed by the
celebrated Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 from 1895, which
has remained the most admired and most recorded cello concertos
in the repertoire. In terms of popularity the Violin Concerto
has consistently eclipsed the Piano Concerto, a work which has
never quite caught on with the majority of music lovers.
The violin was an instrument that Dvořák knew very well
and for the two decades after its composition, his Violin Concerto
was one of his most frequently performed works. Despite its
wealth of fresh and characteristic invention it is not heard
today as often as it deserves. Its unusual form – a truncated
first movement that flows without a break into the slow movement,
the concerto rounded off by a finale that in size balances the
other two movements – may well have been suggested by Bruch’s
First Violin Concerto. There are, too, a few unmistakable echoes
of the Brahms concerto. The thematic material is however deeply
Slavic and wholly characteristic of the composer, nowhere more
so than in the sonata rondo Finale, one of his most brilliant
and delightful essays in Czech dance rhythms.
violin soloist James Ehnes is on fine form and makes strong
claims for the score in an account that is easy to recommend
though not particularly special. Ehnes plays with considerable
refinement and sensitivity and there is much to be admired especially
in the poetic interpretation of the Adagio. However, I would
have preferred a touch more vitality and dash in the outer movements.
The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Noseda provide a sympathetic
the many fine recordings of the Violin Concerto my preferred
version is the brilliant account from Kyung Wha Chung and the
Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti from 1989 on EMI
CDC7 49858-2 c/w Romance in F minor, B.39. I also admire the
accounts from Maxim Vengerov and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
under Kurt Masur on Teldec 4509 96300-2 c/w Elgar Violin Sonata
and from Ilya Kaler with the Polish National RSO under Camilla
Kolchinsky on Naxos 8.550758 c/w Glazunov Violin Concerto.
was a string player rather than a pianist, and though his keyboard
style in the Piano Concerto is almost invariably effective and
well-written, it is sometimes unidiomatic and uncomfortable
to play. This is possibly the reason for the work’s general
neglect. In the twentieth century the work gradually became
known through ‘performing versions’ such as that by Wilém Kurz.
In recent decades, however, some pianists, such as Sviatoslav
Richter, have tended
to go back to Dvořák’s original. On this disc the Talented
Russian pianist Rustem Hayroudinoff plays a mixed text, partly
using Dvořák’s original but, where that is ineffective,
employing the Kurz text. Where Kurz’s changes seem to push the
piano part too far in the direction of a typical romantic concerto,
Hayroudinoff has found his own solutions for staying true to
Dvořák’s intentions. Calum MacDonald, the note writer,
states that Hayroudinoff’s only real liberty has been to maintain
the pulse towards the very end of the slow movement, where Dvořák,
in a passage widely held to be ineffective, doubles it.
cannot transcend the score’s weaknesses and despite his valiant
attempts the score comes across as awkward and disjointed and
demonstrates why the Piano Concerto is only able to hold a tenuous
foothold in the repertoire. He is a touch tentative in the opening
movement but brings off splendidly the furious and stormy coda.
In the central Andante, which could be described as being evocative
of a woodland pastoral, which Dvořák always handled naturally
with freshness, the playing is spontaneous sounding whilst maintaining
integrity and sensitivity. The soloist is most convincing in
the closing movement, composed in Dvořák’s most characteristic
‘Czech Nationalistic’ vein, with playing that is light and airy
having a dance-like quality. Throughout the score Hayroudinoff
is finely supported by conductor and orchestra.
Using the solo part in its original form Sviatoslav Richter’s 1977 account of the Piano
Concerto with the Bavarian State Orchestra under Carlos Kleiber
is my preferred recoridng on EMI 5 66895-2 c/w Schubert’s Wanderer
Fantasia. On a par with this Chandos account is the excellent
version from the prolific Jenö Jandó with the Polish National
RSO under Antoni Wit on Naxos 8.550896 c/w Symphonic poem: The
Water Goblin Op. 107.
are well performed recordings from Chandos that do not disappoint
even if they are not my preferred version of each work.