Recordings of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, are abundant, and even the pairing with the rarer Robert Schumann Violin Concerto, WoO 23, of 1853 are not as infrequent as they used to be. The thorny Schumann concerto has undergone a reevaluation upward, and plenty of players now concur with the judgment of Yehudi Menuhin: "This concerto is the historically missing link of the violin literature; it is the bridge between the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos, though leaning more towards Brahms." Violinist Carolin Widmann who (like the ECM label on which the album appears) has focused mostly on contemporary music, takes up the challenge of providing something new here, and she meets it. The central fact of the recording is that Widmann conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from the violin. Others have done this before, but few have pursued the implications of the technique as far as Widmann has: the performances are unusually light and transparent, and they are perhaps thus in accord with the sounds an orchestra of the middle 19th century might have produced. Sample the unusually lively, sprightly reading of the Mendelssohn concerto's finale.
Mendelssohn's complete works for cello and piano fit on a single CD with room to spare, and your collection should have room to spare for the terrific performances contained on this disc. Cellist Elizabeth Dolin and pianist Bernadene Blaha emphasize the composer's classicism and elegance, in contrast to the somewhat wilder spin with which cellist Mark Shuman and pianist Todd Crow suffuse these works. But whereas the latter ASV release is resonant to a fault, Analekta's engineering conveys a more intimate and equally warm ambience that falls kindly on the ears. Dolin and Blaha are never less than equal partners, which is important considering that Mendelssohn treats both instruments as such. (Classics Today 10/10)