Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra - Vol. 2
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 (1866, rev, 1867) [24.33]
Serenade for violin and orchestra, Op. 75 (1899) [38.19]
In Memoriam, Adagio, Op. 65 (1893) [14.43]
Antje Weithaas (violin)
NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover/Hermann Bäumer
rec. 2014, NDR Radiophilharmonie im Großen Sendesaal, Hannover, Germany
CPO 777 846-2 [77.40]
Volume 2 of CPO's Bruch survey of the Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra the feature work is the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. This headed the Classic FM Hall of Fame top three hundred chart for several years. Now dropping to number fifteen this very beautiful G minor score is still enduringly admired and new recordings keep on coming. The only other Bruch work to come close in esteem is Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra, Op. 47. The Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra is still comparatively popular and remains well represented in the catalogue.
Faring rather less well in the recording studio have been Bruch's second and third violin concertos, and his other works for violin and orchestra: In Memoriam, Konzertstück, Serenade, Adagio appassionato and Romanze. This CPO release also includes the Serenade, Op. 75 and In Memoriam, Op. 65. Incidentally the first volume in this CPO series comprises the Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44, Adagio appassionato, Op. 57 and Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46. Since the release of the set by Salvatore Accardo with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Kurt Masur offering Bruch's nine works for violin and orchestra around thirty-five years ago on Philips it has virtually had the field to itself. Recorded in 1977/78 in Leipzig, the stylish Accardo's really excellent analogue survey provides vitality but with an undertow of sadness.
Bruch laboured hard on his Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor and completed it in 1866. After its première in Koblenz by soloist Otto von Königslöw, Bruch revised the score and later eminent violinist Joseph Joachim was soloist at the first performance of the revision in 1868 in Bremen. Selling the work to a publisher for a relatively small one-off fee must have been a source of great regret to Bruch given its subsequent abiding esteem. Throughout Bruch's the concerto the radiant playing of Antje Weithaas settles on an ideal mix of vibrancy and tenderness. Never in fear of becoming sentimental in the central Adagio I was struck by Weithaas's lovely phrasing which generates emotional intensity. There is plenty of artistry and commitment and this is especially noticeable in the brilliant virtuoso passages of the Finale. Hermann Bäumer ensures that the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover plays with spirit, plenty of weight and with a strong dramatic element. There are a plethora of accounts of the Violin Concerto No.1 and although Accardo on Philips and Antje Weithaas on this new CPO release play quite splendidly I will return most often to the recording by soloist Jaime Laredo who directs the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on IMP Classics (PCD 829). Laredo's special account is warm and extremely characterful, direct in approach and so full of joy. Originally released in 1961 on RCA Victor my Laredo recording is a IMP Classics reissue which subsequently been reissued on Regis (RRC 1152).
Bruch's concluding piece for the violin — his four movement Serenade for violin and orchestra, Op. 75 — was written in 1899. It is dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate who didn't take up the work. In fact it was the Belgian Joseph Débroux who introduced the Serenade in 1901 in Paris. Weithaas clearly relishes this late-romantic music and plays with evident sincerity of purpose. A real highlight is the moving Notturno - Andante sostenuto. Its passion and yearning character is brought out by Weithaas over a seam of melancholy. The final work here is Bruch's 1893 In Memoriam, Op. 65 a single movement in the form of an Adagio. Bruch described this heartfelt score to Joseph Joachim — its dedicatee — as a lament, a sort of instrumental funeral song. Steadfastly engaging Weithaas demonstrates her innate feeling for Bruch's heart-tugging outpouring of late-romantic passion.
Throughout these Bruch scores German soloist Antje Weithaas, artistic director of the Camerata Bern since 2009, is in stunning form. She demonstrates elevated levels of artistry and expression, pin-point intonation and medium sweet tone on her Peter Greiner violin (2001). Under Hermann Bäumer the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover contribute sensitive playing with some noteworthy solo contributions especially from the principal horn. Recorded in 2014 at NDR Radiophilharmonie im Großen Sendesaal, Hannover the sound team can be applauded for providing excellent clarity, presence and balance.
Even if the reader has a particular favourite recording of Bruch's G minor Concerto this marvellously played and recorded CPO release featuring such attractive repertoire is hard to dismiss.