The adventurous Rachel Barton Pine seldom ploughs solely familiar
furrows in the recording studio and has a fine knack of pairing
the established with the complementary but barely known. In the
case of her recording of the Brahms and Joachim D minor [No.2]
concertos on Cedille she paired works by two whose relationship
was close and important [Cedille CDR90000068]. Now she goes if
anything one better in juxtaposing Beethoven with the violinist-composer
who gave the premiere of that concerto and whose own had been
premiered the previous year; Franz Clement.
As Joachim and Brahms
were friends and fellow composers so were Clement and Beethoven.
Though he didn’t receive the dedication of the work he premiered
– Beethoven dedicated it to Stephan von Breuning – Beethoven
did add his inscription ‘par Clemenza pour Clement’ on the autograph
score. The two were close, with Beethoven adding in a letter;
‘Nature and art vie with each other in making you a great artist.’
Not lightly won praise.
Clement’s own concerto receives its first
ever commercial recording. He was assuredly immersed in Beethoven’s
concerto writing – but in terms of the first three Piano Concertos
of course. And yet despite this and the proximity of Beethoven’s
own Violin Concerto a year later Clement’s has features more
in common with earlier stylistic imperatives. That said there
are especially deft features throughout; the way the solo violin’s
first entry gently slides in for example rather then Beethoven’s
perilous broken octaves. There’s plenty of demanding passagework
for the soloist and strong solid themes. The orchestration is
lucid and imaginative though light. No cadenzas survive so Barton
Pine has provided her own. The limpid wind writing of the central
movement ushers in a rather bel canto feel for the soloist –
plenty of lyricism with a contrasting B section with plentiful
arabesques showing the athletic virtuosity of the soloist. This
moves seamlessly back to the initial lyrical unfolding with
no bumps at all. The finale is light hearted and dashingly aerial
– tuneful, enjoyable, not on the same level perhaps as the preceding
movements but enjoyable nonetheless.
There are certainly
some slight resemblances to the Clement in Beethoven’s own Concerto.
Not only is this revealing and fascinating in itself but the
fact that the Clement emerges in so good a light is a testament
to its validity as a work. That we should have waited two centuries
for its first recording is a matter of amazement; all credit
then to these forces for doing the honours so well.
The Beethoven is rather deliberately moulded
and gets off to a slow start. Barton Pine has a small, sweet
tone, well focused and Serebrier gets from the RPO tuttis, for
instance, that are malleable but not forceful. It’s a keynote
of the performance which is rather reigned in if not restrained.
The second subject is quite slow and veiled. The slow movement
is delicate and refined, the finale pleasurable but not really
ebullient or sharply etched. It’s been my experience that Barton
Pine tends to take her time in canonic nineteenth century concertos.
As with the Clement she plays her own cadenzas.
The Clement is a very fine archaeological
reclamation from these forces and well worth your time; the
recorded sound for the Clement is slightly more forward than
in the slightly mushier Beethoven.