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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D Op. 61 (1806) [44:06]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D Op. 77 (1878) [40:14]
Ginette Neveu (violin)
SWDR Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud (Beethoven)
Orchestre National de France/Roger Desormière (Brahms)
rec. 25 April 1948 (Brahms), 25 September 1949 (Beethoven), Baden-Baden, Kurhaus
SWR MUSIC 19018CD [40:14 + 44:06]

These broadcast performances have been released before. The Beethoven with Rosbaud shows a characterful sensitivity and sweetness to Neveu’s playing in the first movement of this 1949 traversal—the odd intonational lapse aside—even if the recording itself is rather close up, sufficient at any rate to catch the violinist’s constant sniffing. Rosbaud characterizes the brass behind her from around 13.00 with insistent unease—indeed he points up myriad little cogent architectural-expressive details, exploring the turbulence of the work in a way few other conductors manage. One of Neveu’s few besetting faults was a tendency to rush bars and she does so here just before the cadenza but her subsequent control is one of real strength and pliancy, terracing her dynamics accordingly and ending the movement with strength. In the slow movement one can best appreciate Neveu’s strikingly Gallic use of vibrancy and colour. Intensely expressive at a relatively slow tempo with perfectly judged diminuendos, her vibrato usage here is charged both with depth but also with speed change. Her slides are affecting, though perhaps a little out of style for this period. All is affectionate, if leisurely, with some irresistible lift and life in the playing. Strong contouring comes from the conductor—but there are some signs that Neveu is tiring toward the end with occasionally loose playing. Still this is a marvelous example of her musicianship caught on the wing.

Desormière’s conducting of the Brahms Concerto is a striking example of subjective intelligence. He indulges some very extreme tempo rubato in the orchestral introduction—full of flexibility and elasticity of phrasing. Neveu is, as with her commercial disc, intense and propulsive in this work She vests her line with some succulent phrasing, big boned, and portamenti feature strongly amongst her arsenal of inflective devices. Maybe there’s a temporary lack of orchestral clarity from 8.30 onwards and Neveu is still inclined to jump her bars once or twice but this is still a formidable pairing of talents. The recording overloads at fortissimi from time to time but only the super scrupulous will mind. Her colouristic palette reigns in the slow movement though possibly some might find her a little glutinous at certain moments. There is once more overload in the finale—percussion his time—but this is strong, agile and commanding playing even if, so far as I’m concerned, there is also a hint of rhythmic unsteadiness as well.

There isn’t much audible difference between these restorations and those on Music and Arts CD550, which has just the Beethoven, and Tahra 2.355-2.357, which houses both concerto performances and much more besides. The same rapid flickering sound in the Beethoven has been preserved, and so have other spillages and noises off. However, the sound is perfectly acceptable for the vintage and allows one to concentrate on the spellbinding association between a great violinist and her two perceptive conducting colleagues.

Jonathan Woolf



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