Comparison Recordings of the Sibelius
Jascha Heifetz, Walter Hendl, [ADD]
Anne Sophie Mutter, André Previn,
DG 447 895-2
The first question
when an unfamiliar violinist tackles
the Sibelius, possibly the most difficult
violin concerto in the popular repertoire
is, "Can he play it?". The
answer in this case is, after peeking
ahead to the gruelling virtuoso passages
in the last movement, "Most certainly
yes, as good as Heifetz!" So, knowing
that, we can relax and hear the first
parts of the concerto, knowing we don’t
have to steel ourselves for a bumpy
ride at the end. Don’t be fooled by
the price tag. This is a performance
to be ranked among the best, a courageous
re-thinking of a popular work.
This DVD-Audio is one
of the most realistic concerto recordings
I’ve ever heard. The violin sounds like
it is on stage with the orchestra, heard
as from about the fifteenth row in a
good hall. The usually encountered recording
perspective is that of the conductor
with the solo violin very close and
generally sounding equally as loud as
the whole orchestra. In the DVD-Audio
tracks the orchestral tuttis are at
full concert volume, the violin at solo
volume, both clearly audible at all
times, the dynamic range almost too
great at times for comfortable listening.
If you find this so, listen to the AC-3
or DTS tracks for a reduced dynamic
range which gives a viewpoint closer
to the conventional dynamic balance.
Or buy the Naxos CD version. My experience
suggests that the SACD version will
also have reduced dynamic range.
is very personal. In the DVD-Audio version,
the violinist is all but inaudibly soft
upon his entry, with a steady build
in intensity to the first tutti in the
first movement, the loudest moment in
the whole work. The style is cool, reflective,
affectionate, ruminative, introspective,
in contrast to Mutter’s flaming, almost
Gypsy-like passion and Heifetz’s brisk
forward motion. The first movement timings
tell the story: Kraggerud, 16.16 versus
Heifetz at 13.30.
The Sibelius Serenade
is similar to the Humoresques
in length and texture, but is much more
solemn and sad. At one moment, we almost
hear the Swan of Tuonela singing,
at others there is a brief bright country
Sinding was born in
Königsberg and trained partly in
Leipzig, but adopted Norwegian nationality.
The Sinding Concerto is clearly
from an earlier aesthetic, at first
reminding one very much of Bruch, there
being no particular resemblance to Sinding’s
famous piano solo The Rustle
of Spring, the almost comically
Wagnerian work that made Sinding’s reputation.
The sharp transition from the bright
and extroverted concerto’s opening allegro
energico to the subsequent sombre,
moody andante is strikingly original.
Then, just as abruptly we are back in
the sunlight to finish off with a sprightly
in D is just that, a more self-consciously
theatrical work than any others on this
disk, at times almost sounding like
an operatic scene.
is superb throughout all these works,
bringing deep expression and exquisite
tone to the changing moods. Orchestra
and conductor make their full contribution
to the drama of these works.
There seems to be no
menu from which to select tracks in
advance, you just play the disk and
skip forward from track 1 as you want.
see also CD reviews
Howell and Jonathan