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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) 
Violin concerto in D minor, Op. posth. (1822) [25:02]
Violin concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) [30:35]
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
rec. April 1976, Henry Wood Hall, London
ELOQUENCE 482 5073 [55:46]

Salvatore Accardo was 34 when he recorded this Mendelssohnian brace in April 1976. His wunderkind days were well behind him – a sensational 1954 appearance aged 13 was followed by first prize wins at the Geneva and Paganini competitions – and this Decca disc came at a time when he was soloing with I Musici. As one of the many who love his Bruch recordings with Kurt Masur, who surely provides amongst the most imaginative accompaniments on disc, but who hadn’t heard his Mendelssohn disc I had the highest expectations. Charles Dutoit, another accommodating conductor, directs the LPO in Henry Wood Hall.

The fiery brilliance of Accardo’s 20s had matured into playing of more objective purity and it’s the quality of clarity, rather than communicative identification, that is the hallmark of the E minor. Nicely, but not outrageously, forward in the balance he plays with a deal of rubato and the wind principals make their expected accomplished contributions. But there is a degree of lassitude that strangely argues against a romantic conception, not least in the central movement which is taken slower than I think I have ever heard it. Its etiolated nature – surely the soloist’s own conception – battles against Accardo’s earnest phrasing and fine tone. The result is objectified anti-romanticism, to my ears. The finale is the best interpreted movement and the most conventionally done. Despite this, I have to say that at the end I was screaming for such wildly different players as the Old School Elman, the molten Gimpel, or the aristocratic Milstein – just three disparate performers whose playing offers very different but wholly personalised readings. Accardo’s blandness here, by comparison, is strange.

The youthful D minor goes much better. Perhaps because it’s a work with a less authoritative tradition it doesn’t tempt him to exaggeration in rubati or tempi. He deals with the occasionally formulaic passagework with swashbuckling aplomb and manages to vest the slow movement with appropriate expressive warmth, even though Accardo still errs somewhat on the side of longer drawn-out phraseology even here.

So, in short, a bit of a misfire for me. Maybe that explains why this is its first appearance on CD. Inevitably, too, the total timing is short.

Jonathan Woolf


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