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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major Op. 35 [35:05]
Variations on a Rococo Theme Op. 53 (arranged for Viola, String Ensemble and Piano by Yvan Cassar) [15:55]
Nemanja Radulović (violin)
Nemanja Radulović (viola)
Stéphanie Fontanarosa (piano)
Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra/Sascha Goetzel
Double Sens
rec. Istinye Borusan Oto, Istanbul, Turkey, 2016 (Concerto), Kolarac Concert Hall, Belgrade, Serbia, 2017 (Variations)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 8089 [52:09]

The name Nemanja Radulović is new to me. The Serbian violinist and violist has won a handful of international prizes, and has recorded a number of discs for the yellow label.

There is no doubt that Radulović gives a spirited and characterful performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto. The question is: is that enough? He certainly pulls out all the stops in this truly virtuosic rendition of one of the most popular works for violin and orchestra. Is it just a little too energetic? It is for me. I imagine that if I were to see Radulović in a concert I would come away feeling wowed and get real value for money. In a recording, however, I just feel there is a little too much Nemanja Radulović at the expense of Tchaikovsky. The performance is clean, some might say too clean, with measured vibrato. Whilst his recording is not particularly fast, Radulović has a knack of sounding faster than he is. He is well supported by the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra and Sascha Goetzel, but there are times when they seem to be playing catch-up. A good recording therefore, one that is exciting, but not one to challenge my favourites of this perennial concerto.

We now come to the coupling: an arrangement of the Rococo Variations for viola and chamber ensemble. All I can say is why. For me a big part of the original version of the work is the sonority of the solo cello, making this an oft-played piece. Here it is the inclusion of the piano that feels wrong to me. If the work had been transcribed for viola and orchestra, it would have worked better, but in this arrangement the piano replaces the woodwinds and sounds somewhat like an interloper, another soloist vying for the limelight. Radulović’s viola sound is very good, but he is lost in an arrangement—he commissioned it from Yvan Cassar—which fails to impress. I can envisage wanting to listen to it again.

Stuart Sillitoe

 



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