David Nadien has found a fine champion in Cembal d’amour,
a label that evinces dedication to its selected roster of musicians.
The latest Nadien disc is an all-Brahms affair, conjoining a
1973 performance of the Concerto with an earlier traversal of
the Double Concerto featuring the august collaboration of Leonard
The Violin Concerto is accompanied by the Seattle Youth Symphony
Orchestra and Vilem Sokol. There is some tentative orchestral
work, at least at the work’s start, and it would be idle
to pretend that the valiant attentions of the orchestra match
the standards routinely expected in studio recordings. This,
however, is different and represents the documentation of Nadien’s
performances, so one should listen foremost to the soloist,
and to his way with the work. That way is quite brisk, and as
anyone with even a passing interest in him will know, his was
a very linear way.
Nadien was never one to hang around. His sense of rhythmic inflexion
meant that he maintained a taut approach to tempi, though not
one that equated to terseness. Listen at 4:13 in the first movement
to the way in which he intensifies the solo line, in highly
personalised fashion. It’s an approach that will compel
or deter, according to taste. Certainly this kind of muscular
intensity is worlds away from the Perlman-Giulini approach to
the concerto, in which an air of seraphic nonchalance can intrude.
Portamenti and rubati are strongly part of Nadien’s expressive
arsenal, though it’s a shame that his violin is not a
little more centre stage in the sound spectrum. As for Nadien,
his phrasing in the slow movement is at its most Heifetzian.
Throughout this is resilient and consonant playing, clearly
shaped in the finale and highly effective.
For the Double Concerto he was teamed with Leonard Rose, whose
studio recording of the work with Isaac Stern and Eugene Ormandy
is very well remembered (review),
and admired. They make for a resonantly strong pairing, though
one that has differing approaches to vibrato speed; Nadien’s
is faster and more insistent, Rose’s is slower and broader
and less prone to over-intensity. They are at their most successful
perhaps in the finale, and at their least successful in the
Andante where some of the phrasing is less convincing. In the
finale, though, the sense of conversational fluency is highly
personable and convincing - not least in the exchanges with
the orchestra’s wind principals. It’s a pity the
off-air recording is not brilliantly balanced, certainly not
in respect of the percussion, which is frighteningly loud in
These recordings and performances are certainly not unproblematic,
but they exude character and vital engagement. Nadien was a
past master at both.