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CD: Crotchet


Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto (1905) [32:26]
Magnus LINDBERG (b. 1958)
Violin Concerto (2006) [25:59]
Lisa Batiashvili (violin)

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. live, 11-12 May 2007, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki (Sibelius); 5-7 June 2007, House of Culture, Helsinki (Lindberg)
world premiere recording of the Lindberg
SONY/BMG CLASSICAL 88697129362 [58:25]

Experience Classicsonline

Batiashvili is a serious musician and that’s evident from a very healthy, mercurial, weighty and impetuously characterful Sibelius Concerto. In choosing this she enters an unforgiving cauldron already crowded with great recordings. It’s a trial of arms, of heart and of head which she passes with success but she does not displace personal favourites despite a most attractive and naturally balanced recording. Personal favourites in this work include the Oistrakh/Rozhdestvensky and two backfield heroes Jan Damen and Julian Rachlin. Her poignant tone is slimmer and less fleshy than Oistrakh and Damen; similar perhaps to Mullova and Chung. Compensation – if needed - comes in form of a blessedly silvery definition. This is often a delight and the recording technology keeps yielding rewards. Try the finale where the orchestra’s discreetly chugging ostinato at 4.39 is revealed as never before. The superbly weighted altissimo sequence at 4:50 makes me anxious she should tackle the Six Humoresques – one of Sibelius’s best kept secrets.
The Lindberg is a truly fantastic work radiant with perfumed fairytale romance and of dizzying complexity. The style is caught somewhere between Sibelius – which the composer acknowledges is a presence - and the first concertos of Szymanowski and Prokofiev. This is rapturous writing, translucently orchestrated and intensely poetic. The music is not at all dissonant and the lavish flow of ideas is transparent – a play of colour, texture, melody and rhythm. In that sense it also recalls a work unjustly forgotten since its first airing in the late 1950s, the Violin Concerto by American composer Benjamin Lees recently recorded by Elmar Oliveira for Artek (soon to be reviewed) and before that by Ricci for Vox. My only reservation relates to the way the work ends. Of course it does end but I did not feel that the way it ended had the inescapable logic I would expect from a finale.
There’s no denying that Elisabeth (Lisa) Batiashvili is easy on the eye but must we have a veritable Karajan love-fest of photos in the booklet and then a page of endorsement from The Gramophone and another from The Strad. What is the purpose of this? To affirm a message? To reassure the purchaser that they have made a good investment? To act as a counterbalance to the ‘hot chick’ image conjured by ten pictures? If so perhaps if we had fewer pictures there would be less need for a counterbalance. Rant over.
The notes are good and have been written by Joanna Wyld.
Two classic Finnish violin concertos separated by almost a century and here alluringly performed and recorded.
Rob Barnett


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