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
WARNER APEX 2564 6 73005 [69:36]

As is a hallmark of Warner the present disc has been issued several times before. Nothing to their detriment in that. It will continue to be reissued for as long as Warner see a market. New listeners will discover what was always a strong contender. The last time of issue it appeared as 2564 69367 3. This time it loses all its liner notes. If we have anything about us we can easily find out about the composers and the music. If not then our enjoyment of the music and wish to return to it is diminished hardly at all by the absence of an essay. We are left with just the music and a few discographic details.

This Vengerov disc is in the front rank and jostles with Cho Liang Lin's identical coupling on Sony. Great artistry is engaged from all the participants. Each phrase of the Sibelius is imbued with passionate significance - carefully projected. Every detail, orchestral or solo, is driven home with apt emphasis. It's my ignorance that accounts for my never having thought of Barenboim as a Sibelian but he is a most idiomatic interpreter even if he fights shy of the symphonies and tone poems. The Nielsen is a not unheard of coupling. Other approaches include the Sibelius with the Humoresques, Serenades and other pieces for violin and orchestra or the Sibelius with the Tchaikovsky - notably from Decca's Kyung Wha Chung. Alternatively the Nielsen can be heard on Chandos and on Naxos neatly accompanied by the two other Nielsen concertos (flute/clarinet). The punch and the sigh of the orchestra is captured by Teldec's recording engineers 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 first movement. Vengerov's scudding motoric playing at 15:30 is just as ear-tickling as it should be and vies with my long-established first choice of the 1965 Moscow Oistrakh with Rozhdestvensky once on BMG.

Vengerov's cherry-sweet violin is a Stradivari Cremona 1723 on extended loan courtesy Stradivari Society Inc. of Chicago.

These are really fine and very inexpensive Sibelius and a Nielsen readings and recordings.

Rob Barnett

These are really fine Sibelius and a Nielsen readings and recordings.