Edouard LALO (1823-1892) Symphonie Espagnole Op.21 (1874)
[32.43] Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908) Zigeunerwiesen, Op. 20
(1878) [7.46] Max BRUCH (1838-1920) Violin Concerto No.1, Op. 26
Renaud Capuçon, violin
Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi
rec. Grand Salle, Philharmonie de Paris, May/September 2015. ERATO 2564 698276 [65:47]
These recordings were made in Paris at the orchestra’s new home, the Philharmonie in Paris, which opened in early 2015. Renaud Capuçon gives us a generous programme, featuring three contrasting romantic works that show off his many qualities. His playing is very refined, thoughtful and immaculate, with hardly an ugly note to be heard. His tone is dark and quite husky in the lower register, which really suits the contemplative and romantic passages in the Lalo and the Bruch. The virtuoso quicksilver passages are played with tremendous clarity and perfect articulation.
Capuçon shares a birthday with Edouard Lalo and his performance of the Symphonie Espagnole, given here in its complete 5 movement form, is extremely fine. Orchestra and soloist present the work as a serious piece, resisting the temptation of simply turning it into a virtuoso showpiece. The soloist’s playing in the second subject of the opening Allegro non troppo and the Andante is gorgeous. Having said that, the delicate, scampering passages in the Scherzando and the Rondo are played with tasteful virtuosity. Capuçon seems to me to get the balance just right. This is a marvellous work and this recording is one of the best available.
Unlike the rather neglected Lalo, the Bruch Concerto is one of the repertoire’s most celebrated concertos. It is given a heartfelt and fresh sounding reading with the central Adagio really singing out. There is a slight disagreement between soloist and conductor about the tempo at the opening of the Finale but that quickly passes. It is of little consequence, when judging the performance as a very enjoyable whole. The rambling, tuneful Zigeunerweisen sits between the two main works on the CD and allows the soloist to let his hair down in 8 minutes of pure pleasure.
This is a really satisfying CD and the soloist is well supported by the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi. Capuçon is recorded with great clarity and presence. Just occasionally the forward placing masks the woodwind lines, but only marginally so. Recording quality is sweet but with a limited dynamic range. The playing of the soloist will appeal to those who look for refinement of tone and clean articulation first and foremost. Maybe some listeners will feel that there is something missing in terms of fire and aggression, one example being the way the main theme of the first movement of the Bruch is presented in a rather laid back fashion. It doesn’t have the histrionic quality favoured by so many but that is Capuçon’s way. His concentration throughout is all about making a beautiful, expressive sound and that, for me, is where he really scores. John Whitmore