Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1868) [24:17]
Romance in F (1911) [8:30]
String Quintet in A minor (1918) [24:05]
Vadim Gluzman (violin)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton (Concerto; Romance)
Vadim Gluzman, Sandis Šteinbergs (violins), Maxim Rysanov, Ilse Klava (violas), Renis Birznieks (cello) (Quintet)
Rec. Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway, October 2009 (Concerto; Romance); Schloss Nordkirchen, Orangerie, Westphalia, Germany, September 2009 (Quintet). Hybrid SACD
BIS-SACD-1852 [58:04]

Most collectors will already possess a recording of Bruchís First Violin Concerto so for many the items of interest here will be the Quintet and the Romance. The Quintet, first of all, is a work of 1918, written towards the end of the Great War and of the composerís life; itís a real gem. Its deceptively gentle opening lulls the listener into a false sense of ease before plunging headlong into a full-on passage of Sturm und Drang. The rest of the movement contains a mix of beauty and stress but it shows that the composer had complete mastery of the Quintet form for this, his only excursion into the genre. The extra viola makes all the difference, adding a rich mellowness to the middle of the sound and creating something for the listener to bask in. In contrast to the opening movement, there is an underlying warmth and good humour to the Scherzo which is merry while remaining understated. The slow movement is gorgeously rich, thanks to the prominent role given to the middle strings. Itís an unapologetically lush four minutes and its brevity makes it feel like a beautifully transient moment, snatched before it disappears. The finale is then more restrained than one might expect, almost like an energised Minuet. For most of the movement it retains its elegance and mask of formality before breaking into a hell-for-leather coda, but not before a central section that reminds us of earlier stresses. This is a work well worth exploring, and the performance given here is superb. Gluzman has assembled a cast of players with whom he clearly has a close working relationship and it shows. There is a sense of collective joy in the music-making that works wonderfully. Thereís that palpable feeling of introducing a new musical discovery into the world. For this, if nothing more, the disc deserves to do well.

The Romance is another delight. Originally scored for a solo viola with orchestra Gluzman arranges it for violin after the composerís own version for violin and piano. As its title suggests, it is wonderfully luscious with a main theme to wallow in and sumptuous orchestration to boot. It feels much more like Massenetís Mťditation than Beethovenís Violin Romances and it oozes Romantic decadence from every pore. A guilty pleasure!

As for the concerto itself, Gluzman and Litton provide a performance which, to my ears, can stand comparison with any of recent years. The first movement contains playing of proper vigour, making the music sound energetic and exciting. For once this Ė almost - prevents it from being a ďmereĒ prelude to the slow movement which here unfolds in one endless, breathless line of legato beauty. The finale then bustles with energy without feeling rushed. Gluzmanís unashamedly Romantic playing makes this a version to cherish, and BISís recorded sound is first rate, close and immediate without losing its bloom. This disc is a great Bruch package, combining the most familiar with something new.

This recording can also be downloaded from eclassical.com

Simon Thompson

A disc to cherish.

see also review by Christopher Fifield (June 2011 Recording of the Month)