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 works.
Stephen Francis Vasta 

Will appeal particularly to those as yet unfamiliar with these works.