Two romantically-inclined English violin concertos played by a Russian violinist
working in Denmark, a Danish orchestra plus two conductors, one Finnish,
the other Italian - all recorded by a Danish label.
These words are by way of introduction, not criticism. I am not a believer
in the only true voice for British music being by British artists. The chances
of good music travelling would be virtually non-existent without orchestras
worldwide being willing to explore and record music from other states and
The self-same coupling of concertos exists in the EMI catalogue where the
soloist is the vivaciously-toned and fiery Ida Haendel (Bournemouth SO/Paavo
Berglund). That recording dates from the 1980s and is now rather long in
the tooth though astoundingly freshly-minted as a performance.
The two concertos date from the same year, written in the shadow of World
War 2. Their composers stand at opposite ends of the style divide and yet
these two concertos are spiritually close. The Britten is amongst his most
romantic works running contrary to his usual style. The Walton is a vital
example of his own true language.
Azizian is a powerful player though occasionally harsh in the sounds he conjures.
He does not have the high-powered consistently tense approach of a Heifetz
or an Oistrakh.
The Britten concerto performance rates highly, delicately stepping the line
between neo-classicism and neo-romanticism, leaning more often into the latter.
Vanska already has a well-justified and good reputation arising from his
work with BIS and with the BBC Scottish SO. From the V-for-Victory figure
at the opening through to the Prokofiev echoes (violin concerto No 1) and
the uncharacteristic (for Britten) relaxation into succulent romance, this
performance is extremely engaging and is in good sound. Only in the third
movement before the twittering and flickering fantasy interlude does the
work seem to wander and lose concentration.
Vanska surrenders the podium to (the, to me, totally unheard of) Giordano
Bellincampi for the Walton concerto.
The Walton work (with its heritage in Elgar's much earlier concerto) is a
classic of late late-romanticism; a passionate (Heifetz-dedicated and championed)
work both loving and erotic, soaked in a Mediterranean glowing blue-green
sea-swell. It is a work which appeals to me strongly. I rate the no-holds-barred
recordings by Zino Francescatti (CBS/Sony) and Ida Haendel (EMI) very highly.
The first movement is nicely pitched in terms of breathing ebb and flow.
What leaves me feeling dissatisfied is the recessed balance of the orchestra
in which Walton has embedded much of the poetry of the work. Azizian is
passionate and driven although he is not aided by an orchestra or recording
that presents the ensemble as having a less than silkily sumptuous and golden
upholstered sound. There is much to enjoy, not least the myriad moments of
artful colouring presented by Azizian. He has a good sense of fantasy. The
orchestra sounds somewhat disengaged and the outlines of the climactic spasm
at 8:30 (first movement) are softened and blurred. This happens quite often
in the orchestra and is a definite disadvantage. So what we have here is
a very strong and poetically motivated soloist whose identification with
the 'jolt and charge' of the music seems not to be consistently matched by
The helpful notes are in English only and are by the 'house' writer for ClassicO,
Mogens Wenzel Andreason.
The playing time is not that generous by many standards but is perfectly
respectable as indeed are the performances. There is nothing here that would
put off the first time listener to these works. Clarity and a natural approach
to recording balance have a great deal to commend them. I expect to hear
more of Azizian on the international stage and in due time this recording
is likely to become a collectors' item amongst violinist fanciers.