Henry VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor (Grétry), Op. 37 (1858-9) [19:40]
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31 (1850?) [28:59]
Fantasia appassionata, Op. 35 (1860) [17:58]
Viviane Hagner (violin)
Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
rec. Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven, Netherlands, July 2009
HYPERION CDA67798 [66:40]
The concertos of Henry Vieuxtemps - which don't seem to get the exposure they
used to in vinyl days - epitomize what one might think of as "French" craftsmanship,
even if the composer was actually Belgian. The more lightly scored passages
are transparent in texture and gracious in manner. The tuttis, no matter
how turbulent, are clearly laid out and adeptly orchestrated.
The imposing eleven-minute opening movement of the A minor concerto - nicknamed
the "Grétry", apparently, for quoting of one of that composer's melodies
- begins the program strongly enough. In place of the expected slow movement,
however, Vieuxtemps offers an extended solo cadenza, followed by a five-minute
movement combining characteristics of a slow movement and a finale. It makes
for a lopsided, front-heavy structure. The four-movement D minor isn't exactly
conventional, either, starting with an improvisatory Andante, following
it with a chorale-like Adagio that gradually builds in anxious intensity.
It feels better balanced and more satisfying. The Fantasia appassionata
effectively telescopes a fast-slow-fast tripartite structure into a single eighteen-minute
movement - it's practically another full-scale concerto. The portentous tuttis
set off the lyrical pages nicely, while an infectious tarantella rhythm
dominates the close.
The soloist, Viviane Hagner, fills out the broad, lyrical phrases vibrantly,
with soaring tone in the higher positions. In the D minor concerto, she traces
her lines in the opening Andante with appropriate fragility, and attacks
the finale's Mendelssohnian figurations with relish. The fast passagework in
the A minor taxes her - the tone can become very small - but at least
she brings it the right energy and thrust.
Martyn Brabbins draws crisp ensemble and warm, full tone from the Royal Flemish
Philharmonic - a "regional" orchestra, but one that needn't apologize for its
playing. The cellos' high-lying cantabiles in the A minor concerto are
particularly fetching. In the D minor, the strings are heartfelt in the big
tune of the Adagio religioso, and Brabbins fashions a thrilling "symphonic"
account of the finale
Hyperion's customary ambience enhances the ensemble sound without obscuring
needed detail. Will appeal particularly to those as yet unfamiliar with these
Stephen Francis Vasta
Will appeal particularly to those as yet unfamiliar with these works.