Joseph JOACHIM (1831-1907)
Violin Concerto in G minor in one movement Op.3 (c.1851) [20:07]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 11 In the Hungarian Style (1860) [45:37]
Suyoen Kim (violin)
Staatskapelle Weimer/Michael Halász
rec. February 2008, CCN Weimarhalle, Weimar
NAXOS 8.570991 [65:57]

The most popular coupling for Joachim’s increasingly popular Op.11 Concerto is the Brahms. Both Christian Tetzlaff and Rachel Barton Pine have thus coupled it [Tetzlaff; Virgin 5021092 and Barton Pine; Cedille CDR 90000068]. This makes a great deal of sense since the Joachim is strikingly anticipatory of the Brahms, who clearly listened and learned from his friend’s soloistic-compositional perception. But to couple, as here, the Op.11 with the much less well-known and early Op.3 is also a sound decision. It expands one’s appreciation and awareness of Joachim’s earlier compositional priorities and alerts one to a work that has lain pretty well ignored.

The more mature work, about which I wrote a little in my Tetzlaff review, is capable of bearing divergent interpretative standpoints. Both Barton Pine and Naxos’s newcomer Suyoen Kim take a significantly more relaxed view than does Tetzlaff. Kim and Michael Halász stress the maestoso elements embedded in the first movement to a greater degree than does Tetzlaff who prefers an altogether more incisive and dramatic quotient. In that respect it helps his expressive cause that Tetzlaff is more forwardly recorded than either of his rivals - this Naxos soundstage has Kim very slightly recessed and more part of the orchestral fabric. Kim plays with adeptness and also with requisite warmth. Especially telling are her finely calibrated diminuendi and the excellently wrought first movement cadenza. Even so this opening movement can sprawl - which is why Tetzlaff tightens the architectural nuts and bolts. The gently spiced slow movement has some excellent running figures for the soloist and some telling moments of elastic lyricism but the paprika count is highest in the finale, where Joachim gives far fuller latitude to folkloric elements. These are duly relished in this performance, though not as much as in the Tetzlaff-Dausgaard recording, which remains my preferred choice for this work.

The Op.3 Concerto is in one movement, and was written around 1851 and dedicated to Liszt. It’s a bustly, loquacious Romantic opus that includes a cadenza early on, and gives the soloist plenty of virtuoso material into which to dig his or her teeth. There are strong brassy themes and urgent, commanding string ones too - though to be frank nothing truly memorable emerges, and the work remains interesting mainly for its function as a showcase for the youthful Joachim to parade his executant-compositional wares. It’s certainly authoritatively played here, and indeed the disc as a whole has strong claims to make.

Jonathan Woolf