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Nicolo PAGANINI (1782 - 1840)
Violin Concerto No.1 in B major Op. 6 (1811) [38’00"]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Violin Concerto in D min Op. 8 (1889) [32’03"]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893)
Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34 (1877) [7’47"]
Boris Belkin (violin)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta (Paganini)
Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berlin/Vladimir Ashkenazy (Strauss)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy (Tchaikovsky)
recorded Thomas Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, Apr 1976 (Paganini), Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Jan 1991 (Strauss), Kingsway Hall, London (Tchaikovsky). ADD/DDD.
ELOQUENCE 476 7488 [77.25]


 

Boris Belkin was hailed as a wonderful violinist after he won the 1976 Tchaikovsky Competition. He was quickly snapped up under contract to Decca. He then recorded a few discs, notable among these being the Brahms Concerto with Fischer and the LSO, the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich No. 1, and the pair of Prokofiev concertos. Apart from the Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Strauss, it has been left to Australian Eloquence to promote these very fine concerto readings.

The booklet includes a photograph of the soloist which shows a more mature artist than the other discs, which show a youngster, presumably as he was when he won the competition. Based upon the recording dates the current photograph is probably relevant to the Strauss recording, being as it is some sixteen years newer than the other two.

The Paganini No. 1 comes into direct comparison with performances by Accardo, Grumiaux, Gringolts, Perlman, Shaham and Vengerov, although none have similar couplings. In a concerto such as this a secure technique is an absolute must and all of these seven discs are difficult to fault in this respect. Belkin’s also is easily in this class and there are no shortcomings in his playing of this virtuoso concerto. Paganini, while he puts a virtuoso strain on the soloist, does not stretch him in the interpretative area. So as long as the concerto is effectively played, one can live with the result. What we have here is Mehta’s accustomed bold as brass accompaniment typical of the style of role he adopts for most of his concerto readings. Together with the IPO they make a good pairing and this can be recommended.

The Strauss Concerto, digitally recorded in 1993 in Berlin with Ashkenazy is another matter. It was written by Strauss when he was only 25, although the concerto had been written seven years earlier as a violin/piano combination. It was dedicated to Benno Walter who was both leader of the Royal Bavarian Orchestra and Strauss’s cousin. In the orchestral premiere, Strauss conducted and the critic Karl Klindworth was sufficiently impressed to wish that Strauss’s new work would replace the Bruch G Minor Concerto. After listening to the concerto not only do I concur with public opinion but also I cannot for the life of me understand how such a crass statement could have been be made about a new work. I had better watch my words in case I become guilty of similar statements.

When we reach the Tchaikovsky Scherzo, we have a definite miniature in both style and length but how much better constructed and laid out than the other two works on this disc. The Valse-Scherzo although like the Strauss, written both as a violin/piano combination and later for violin and orchestra, is of a completely different calibre. A master is at work here, and Ashkenazy offers distinguished accompaniment to his soloist. Decca has captured the performance very musically. There are no hi-fi fireworks here, but neither are there any in the work itself - so another success

The playing of all three works is exemplary. At Australian Eloquence prices (about £3.75 per disc plus postage) this makes superb value. Good notes plus tasteful covers and without the sonic alterations present on the European Eloquence discs.

Very highly recommended.

 

John Phillips



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