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Edouard LASSEN (1830-1904)
Violin Concerto in D major Op. 87 (1880) [33:05]
Ludwig Philip SCHARWENKA (1847-1917)
Violin Concerto in G major Op. 95 (1894) [33:57]
Rued LANGGAARD(1893-1952)
Violin Concerto BVN289 (1943-1944) [9:55]
Linus Roth (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Antony Hermus
rec. City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, June 2018
HYPERION CDA68268 [76:39]

Edouard Lassen was born in Copenhagen, but his parents moved to Brussels when he was three. His violin concerto was composed in 1888 whilst he was Liszt’s successor at Weimar, where he was responsible for the Court Orchestra and Opera House. It is a richly melodic work, and I have taken to it after just one hearing. A lyrical opening theme in the orchestra reappears throughout, and is immediately recognizable. The whole movement is designed to show off the capabilities of the soloist, whilst retaining immediately recognizable tunes which the ear soon latches onto.

The slow movement (Andante cantabile) opens with a memorable theme, built upon by the soloist. He soon introduces a new melody, which leads to an extraordinary sounding passage; the booklet describes it as follows: “A subsequent fortissimo passage, above bell-like accompaniment with tremolo in violins and violas, is very unusually (and demandingly) written for the violin, each note being doubled in unison.” It goes on to assert that this highly original affect is unique in the violin literature.

To be frank, had I not been aware of this beforehand, I would have thought that something had gone severely wrong with the recording or performance, so changed is the sound from the violin, not to mention the slowing-down. The booklet writer argues that this concerto should be considered by violinists for inclusion in their repertoire. In term of its melodic impact so pleasing to the audience, I would agree, but I am inclined to think that there would be great temptation to omit or edit this particular passage.

The final movement is a conventional, light-hearted and capricious. Diverse melodic material provides a fitting ending to the concerto.

I first came across the name “Scharwenka” many years ago in Earl Wilde’s recording of Xaver Scharwenka’s First Piano Concerto. It is only in more recent years that I discovered his brother Philip’s music. Here we have his G major Violin Concerto, his only work in that form out of a list of well over 100 opus numbers. Like his better-known virtuoso pianist brother, he was born in an area of Prussia that is now part of Poland. His concerto is a conventional work. I do not find it as melodically interesting as the Lassen, though it is pleasing on the ear, and rather more muscular. The slow movement is charming, with a nice, though not particularly ‘stick in the mind’ tune. The finale is as dance-like as we may expect, with moments of impulsive drama from the orchestra.

Ruud Langgaard’s 10-minute Violin Concerto is one of his works that need instill no wariness in the listener. It is unusual in that it has a part for an orchestral piano. Nothing happens during its short span that could give anyone any inkling of the quirkiness in many of his earlier or later works.

This CD is the 22nd in Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series, and is presented with that company’s usual thorough documentation and excellent recording and performances.
Jim Westhead

Previous review: Rob Barnett

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