Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 – 1975) Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, op.99 (1947-48) [38:31]
Samuel BARBER (1910 – 1981) Violin Concerto, op.14 (1939) [24:26]
Dylana Jenson (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/David Lockington
rec. EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, no date supplied. DDD
DYLANA JENSON’S WEBSITE (no catalogue number) [62:31]
When I received this disk I knew that I knew the name of Dylana Jenson from somewhere but I couldn’t place her. After looking at her website I realised that she’s been on the concert platform from the age of 8, making her Carnegie Hall debut when only 20, with the Sibelius Concerto and subsequently recording it with Ormandy and the Philadelphia. This was RCA's first major classical music production recorded in digital sound. She studied with Milstein and Josef Gingold, hence her great lyrical, singing, quality, and she plays on a fiddle built in 1995, which Jenson commissioned from Samuel Zygmuntowicz, a violin-maker working in Brooklyn, NY, which he based on an instrument made by Guarnerius del Gesu. She comes from an artistic family, her sister, Vicky, directed the films Shrek and Shark Tale, and her brother Ivan is a painter and poet. She is married to conductor David Lockington and their daughter, Mariama Lockington, is a Hopwood award-winning poet.
And so to this disk. There is no doubting Jenson’s virtuosity and understanding of these two major 20th century Concertos. Shostakovich’s work is dark and brooding in its two big slow movements, and Jenson brings an intensity to her playing which is perfect for the composer’s private, internal, vision. The scherzo is full of nervous energy and the finale, although a kind of festive dance still has deeper undercurrents, and Jenson never loses sight of the intent of the music. The work was writtten for David Oistrakh and his recordings cannot be ignored (for me, the best being, the live recording of the American premiere with the New York Philharmonic, under Mitropulous (1 January 1956) (NYP 9701 – part of a 10 disk set of live NYPO performances available direct from the orchestra’s website), with the Philharmonia under Rozhdestvensky, live at the Edinburgh Festival (7 September 1962) (BBC Legends BBCL 4060-2), or, for more modern sound, with the New Philharmonia conducted by Maxim Shostakovich (rec. 25 November 1972) (part of a three CD set of Shostakovich Concertos EMI Classics 5 09428 2), but Jenson has more than sufficient authority to stamp her own personality on the performance. This is a very fine one and it makes one want to hear her in Shostakovich’s Second Concerto.
The coupling is most welcome. Barber’s late-romantic Concerto has long held a place in many great violinists’ repertoires, and recorded performances have ranged from Isaac Stern’s overtly adoring account, with the New York Philharmonic, under Bernstein (Sony :074646450628, coupled with Maxwell Davies’s Concerto) to less hot-housed interpretations by Gil Shaham, with the LSO under Previn (Deutsche Grammophon 289 439 8862 9, coupled with the Korngold Concerto). Jenson steers a course between the two approaches and achieves an unsentimental, classically-formed interpretation, which suits the music, for this is the work of a young man. She even makes the moto perpetuo finale seems slightly better, and thus more satisfying, than it really is, which is no mean feat!
The recording is very good, but the soloist is placed very far forward, sometimes at the expense of the orchestra, which is well directed by Jenson’s husband. I would have welcomed a better balance between the two. Nevertheless, these are fine interpretations and are worth having, particularly as the coupling is unusual, but very interesting, and the playing is excellent. There are no notes. The CD can be bought from Dylana Jenson’s website www.dylanajenson.com for $14.99. A bargain!