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Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 in D minor (1877) [29:21]
Violin Concerto No. 3, Op. 58 in D minor (1891) [41:19]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
rec. 1998, Blackheath Concert Halls, London
CHANDOS 10865X [70:52]

This is part of a four-volume series from Chandos, forming a tribute to Lydia Morkovitch with whom they made over sixty recordings. Sadly it also reminds us of the loss of conductor Richard Hickox, for whom a separate ‘legacy’ series is being released.

The Third Violin Concerto was reviewed in 2000 and received with warm admiration by Gerald Fenech, and David Barker has already reviewed this particular release. I hadn’t heard these recordings before and was struck from the start by the depth of expression Lydia Mordkovitch brings to these concertos. The violin solo is very much the ‘lead’ in these works, and while the London Symphony Orchestra performs with sympathetic and at time sumptuous warmth and character there wouldn’t be a great deal left if the soloist were to be lacking in the tenderness and passion implied by Bruch’s scores. With its slow first two movements much of the Second Concerto is more expression than bravura, but the fireworks in the Finale are explosive, and I love Mordkovitch’s clarity even in the most intense passages and throughout the occasional double-stops. These are performances which are more persuasive through their absolute conviction rather than the utmost polished perfection at all times, but I know which I prefer if given the choice.

These concertos may not have quite the thematically memorable qualities in the First Violin Concerto, but Bruch’s music is eloquent and rewarding, and with these kinds of performances a worthwhile addition to any Romantic concerto collection. The Third Violin Concerto returns to more classical structures but has no less of an impact through Mordkovitch’s emphatic playing. We are won over by the rhapsodic passagework in the first movement, but it is the expression in the central Adagio that lifts this piece to that higher level, and every note in this performance is weighed like shavings from Fabergť’s workbench.

Bruch’s Second and Third Violin Concertos are much less frequently performed than his justly famous First but they do pop up from time to time. Ulf Wallin on the BIS label is very recent with his Second Violin Concerto (see review), and collectors may have Itzhak Perlman’s recording with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta which remains something of a classic though some prefer the richness of his earlier 1977 recording with Jesus Lopez-Cobos also originally from EMI Classics but now available through a budget Warner re-release. ChloŽ Hanslip’s recording of the Third Violin Concerto with the LSO and Martyn Brabbins on Warner Classics has power and integrity but to my ears not the depth and passionate commitment achieved by Mordkovitch. Naxos has Maxim Fedotov duplicating this Chandos programme (see review) but while these are strong performances I miss the genuine tenderness and wide emotional contrasts with which Mordkovitch can surprise and delight the ear.

Dominy Clements
Previous review: David Barker



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