Acclaimed violinist Yehudi Menuhin delivers first-rate performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor and Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No.2. His stunning tone, intensity and overall virtuosity are engaging and warm. Menuhin is joined by noted conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The set will go down as one of the finest violin performances of all time and Menuhin remains one of the most accomplished violinists of the century.
Hailed as ‘the Jascha Heifetz of our day’ (Globe and Mail), violinist James Ehnes is widely considered one of the most dynamic and exciting performers in classical music. He has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, appearing with many of the world’s most well-known orchestras and conductors. Ehnes’s extensive discography of over 20 recordings features repertoire ranging from Bach violin sonatas to John Adams’s Road Movies. Since Vladimir Ashkenazy came to prominence on the world stage in the 1955 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, he has built an extraordinary career as one of the finest pianists of our time. Conducting has formed the largest part of his activities over the past two decades, and he has had a long-standing relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra, of which he was appointed conductor laureate in 2000.
Featuring John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique - and Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 at a 24/96 kHz bit and sample rate, the sound on this disc is awe-inspiring. The 7.1 palette gives a recording engineer the opportunity to map acoustically the orchestra and hall with incredible detail, and this recording does just that.
Elgar’s Violin Concerto has a certain mystique about it independent of the knee-jerk obeisance it has received in the British press. It probably is the longest and most difficult of all Romantic violin concertos, requiring not just great technical facility but great concentration from the soloist and a real partnership of equals with the orchestra. And like all of Elgar’s large orchestral works, it is extremely episodic in construction and liable to fall apart if not handled with a compelling sense of the long line. In reviewing the score while listening to this excellent performance, I was struck by just how fussy Elgar’s indications often are: the constant accelerandos and ritards, and the minute (and impractical) dynamic indications that ask more questions than they sometimes answer. No version, least of all the composer’s own, even attempts to realize them all: it would be impossible without italicizing and sectionalizing the work to death.
Judging simply by timings, Mintz and Sinopoli seem to have decided on a middle path in their approach to the first movement of this concerto: they take nearly a minute less over it than Mutter and Karajan (also on DG), about a minute and a half more than Perlman and Giulini on EMI. Using ears rather than a stopwatch, however, they seem to be giving by far the slowest performance of the movement that I have heard in years. It is a reading from which anything which might savour of soloistic display has been expunged, in which no note, even one of a flourish of semiquavers, is allowed to be 'merely' decorative. Mutter is fond of polishing every note like a jewel, too, but the very opening of the concerto in hers and Karajan's reading sounds positively sprightly set beside the newcomer. The moment Mutter enters the speed slackens markedly, but Karajan watchfully assures that the pulse returns with each tutti, and a sense of momentum is present throughout, even during the soloist's most wayward rhapsodizings.
As a musician, as a man of ideals, and as a true world citizen, Yehudi Menuhin made an extraordinary mark on his era. The Menuhin Century commemorates the 100th anniversary of his birth on 22 April 1916.
Tauno Marttinen’s life encompassed almost all of the 20th century. Living from 1912 to 2008, he lived to be nearly 96 years old. He was born in Helsinki and studied in Viipuri, which was then one of the most important and vital towns of Finland. As a young man he played the piano in restaurants and places of entertainment; he also wrote and arranged Finnish tangos, a.o. for the Finnish tango-singer Olavi Virta (1915-1972), who would later become very famous.
Joshua Bell's fresh approach to these violin warhorses makes for an unexpectedly inviting listening experience. In the Mendelssohn he marries his bright tone to forthright phrasing in a manner that communicates the music's emotion without sliding into the gooey sweetness heard in some interpretations. There's little if anything hackneyed about Bell's reading, indicating he's thought about the work anew, right through to the stylistically appropriate cadenza he composed himself (Bell cites research that suggests Mendelssohn's friend Ferdinand David may have actually composed the original cadenza). Roger Norrington's crisp, period-informed style, with its pointed accents and propulsive energy easily fits in with Bell's conception.
After his acclaimed recording of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, for Onyx Classics, and current Gramophone CD of the Month [on Chandos], James Ehnes once again collaborates with Vladimir Ashkenazy for a Tchaikovsky programme, recorded live in Sydney. This CD contains Tchaikovsky’s complete works for violin and orchestra, plus a delightful bonus of the 'Souvenir d’un lieu cher' accompanied by Ashkenazy on piano.