Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 [42:51]
Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102 [35:35]
Salvatore Accardo (violin); Heinrich Schiff (cello)
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Kurt Masur
rec. Gewandhaus, Leipzig, 13-16 Sept 1978. ADD
ELOQUENCE 482 5085 [78:26]

Italian virtuoso Salvatore Accardo gained his first clat with the generality of music-lovers in the early 1970s. This came about through his ground-breaking set of the complete Paganini violin concertos made for Deutsche Grammophon. His subsequent Philips recordings showed that he was ready and willing to plunge into neglected waters. This took the form of a set of the Bruch works for violin and orchestra, again with Masur and his Leipzig band. Those recordings have been multiply reissued and despite their vintage remain a major challenge for subsequent contenders in this territory. Other notable successes included the Sibelius and the Dvořk concertos. Accardo was to forsake Philips - or was it the other way about? - and made a particularly fine and generous coupling of the Elgar and Walton concertos for Collins, reissued on Regis and Brilliant. The Italian label Dynamic have done much to document Accardo's art, including a 9 CD set to mark his 70th birthday and before that a rare recording of Ginastera's Violin Concerto.

This nourishing Brahms collection matches up the well-loved and prominent Violin Concerto with the less celebrated Double Concerto - his two concertos for stringed instruments corralled into one place. The Violin Concerto is sweeter of tone than Kogan's blood-racing version on Melodiya. It is more sophisticated in texture than Isaac Stern's fine and excitingly coarse version on Sony. This solo concerto should be played with a beefy volume setting. The tone can otherwise come across as cool and contained. Compared to the orchestra - especially when in full cry - it is kinder to Accardo who plays with emphatic attack. Here is a violinist who holds more subtle virtues in reserve; seeming lost in concentration in the middle movement. Just listen to that hardly wavering last held-note which qualities are again in evidence at the very end of the last movement; such control and such poise from Accardo. A pity that the silence between the last two movements is rather perfunctory.

The Double Concerto is a work for which I have come to a very great affection. Here it enjoys a red-blooded reading which this time benefits from a sweet close-quarters recording. What we hear evinces both concentration and brio. When a performance of the Double really works it communicates a nicely elongated storminess and the image of angels streaming across the skies. This is the case here although it is a step down from Sony's classic recording by Leonard Rose and Isaac Stern with the Philadelphia conducted by Eugene Ormandy. The Rose/Stern reading unerringly raises the emotional temperature and should be on every Brahmsian's shelving despite its over-pepped recorded ambience. I am afraid that the iconic and often venerated Oistrakh/Rostropovich/Szell version sounds rather pallid by comparisons; likewise the earlier Oistrakh/Fournier/Galliera. These two are a shade too civilised and under control for their own good.

The useful notes for this Eloquence disc are by Raymond Tuttle and are in English only.

This well-compiled entry into the lists leaves the listener with no cause to doubt the ardour of orchestra and soloists or their unanimity of conception and execution.

Rob Barnett

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