RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Pierre RODE (1774-1830)
Violin Concerto no.3 in G minor, op.5 (c.1798) [28:00]
Violin Concerto no.4 in A, op.6 (c.1798-1800) [23:04]
Violin Concerto no.6 in B flat, op.8 (1799 or 1800) [22:39]
Friedemann Eichhorn (violin)
Jena Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicolás Pasquet
rec. Volkshaus, Jena, Germany, 25-29 May 2009. DDD
NAXOS 8.570767 [73:56]
This is now the fourth CD released by Naxos, to their great credit, of the shamefully neglected music of the French composer-violinist Pierre Rode. It follows discs of Violin Concertos nos. 7, 10 and 13 in 2009 (8.570469, two reviews), the 24 Caprices for Solo Violin the same year - 8.570958, review, also recorded for release last year by CPO, for which see review - and the 12 Etudes for Solo Violin (8.572604) just a few months ago.
Anyone familiar with the Violin Concertos of Paganini will be well prepared for the three in this programme. Yet Rode, the great violin virtuoso who inspired and premiered Beethoven's last Violin Sonata op.96, was much more than France's answer to Paganini or the older Viotti. He deserves to be remembered for more than the fact that he was Napoleon Bonaparte's and then Tsar Alexander I's personal violinist, and certainly for more than his hairstyle, which is astonishingly à la 2011 - see the cover print for evidence!
These three concertos, all first recordings, are minor masterpieces of their time and place. Though highly taxing for the soloist - even if Friedemann Eichhorn does not let it show - they are hugely entertaining and satisfying for the listener. The beautiful Violin Concerto in B flat, for example, is rightly considered one of Rode's jewels, and its dancing rhythms, joie-de-vivre and endlessly lyrical solo lines are typical of Rode's writing. His slow movements, always adagio, are stunning, Mozartean cantilenas. There is none of the exhibitionism that Paganini liked to indulge in - Rode's musicianship is as aesthetic as his gift for melody is boundless, with double-stopping and fancy harmonics eschewed in favour of high-speed and often filigree passage-work, musical expression always to the fore.
The Jena Philharmonic, in its first recording for Naxos, under the Uruguayan conductor Nicolás Pasquet - whom some may recall from his complete László Lajtha symphonies series with the Pécs Symphony Orchestra (now the Pannon Philharmonic - Pécs) for Marco Polo in the late 1990s (8.223667-8.223673) - work splendidly and modestly together and with Eichhorn to produce expressive, persuasive accounts of the three Concertos. Eichhorn's own cadenzas are as dazzling as his playing, which is sweet of tone, fleet of finger and marvellously communicative.
Sound quality is fairly good - just a little on the flat side, with occasional, distant traffic rumble just audible during the cadenzas. The dense booklet notes are well written and informative, though as usual only yielding up their micro-font secrets to those with good eyesight or an appropriate magnifying tool.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Brian Reinhart
Hugely entertaining and satisfying.