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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor op. 47 (1903-5) [33:20]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Violin Concerto op. 33 (1911) [36:16]
Maxim Vengerov (violin)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
rec. Orchestra Hall, Chicago, January 1996. DDD


Experience Classicsonline

Vengerov here displays great artistry and a honeyed tone. The latter cannot only be due to the cherry-sweet Stradivari Cremona 1723 which is on extended loan to him courtesy of the Stradivari Society Inc. of Chicago. Each phrase is imbued with passionate significance - carefully shaped and weighted yet springy and supple. Each detail, orchestral or solo, is driven home with an emphasis apt to the phrase or effect. I had never thought of Barenboim as a Sibelian but on this basis I need to think again. The two artists work in companionable harmony.

The Nielsen is a not unheard of coupling for the Sibelius as we know from the fine Sony Classical CD by Cho Liang Lin on Theta from 2002. Other approaches include the Sibelius Concerto with the Humoresques and Serenades and the other pieces for violin and orchestra. We also see the Sibelius with the Tchaikovsky as in the famous Philips recording by Viktoria Mullova and the BMG with Oistrakh. Alternatively the Nielsen can be heard on Chandos and on Naxos neatly harnessed with the two other Nielsen concertos (flute/clarinet). 

The Chicago orchestra is captured by Teldec's recording engineer Ulrich Ruscher with audacious fidelity. That courage extends to a true concert hall pianissimo-plus at the start of the Sibelius and again at 14:33 in the work’s first movement. Vengerov's scudding motoric playing at 15:30 (I) is just as ear-tickling as it should be and vies with my first choice of the 1965 Moscow Oistrakh with Rozhdestvensky once on BMG. 

The notes are by the redoubtable Robert Layton whose 1965 book on Sibelius and Nielsen was amongst my earliest reading when the Sibelius and Nielsen bug first took hold. 

This represents another really fine Sibelius and a sturdy chivalrous Nielsen; the latter imbued with resinous character. The disc is in front rank and jostles with Cho Liang Lin's fine identical coupling on Sony Theta.

Rob Barnett


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