Red-faced reviewer phoning in! Although this recording was released on 30 December 2016 I have only now got to it – despite my enthusiasm for Max Bruch’s music and Hyperion’s championing of it.
Jack Liebeck’s account of the adorable Second Violin Concerto (which has attracted such as Accardo, Heifetz, Menuhin and Perlman into the studio) is a sweet and passionate success, whether in the solemn yet seductive opening movement, the imposing and intense second (entitled ‘Recitativo’), with this latter sowing the seeds for the dancing and vivacious Finale that haunts the memory long afterwards.
The remaining pieces are more than makeweights. The Konzertstück has a fiery opening movement with plenty of opportunity for the violinist to make a big statement – seized by Liebeck in fabulous fashion – and a slow second that opens with a beautiful melody, in hushed intimacy and soulfulness, so what is there not to like. In memoriam begins with quiet timpani strokes, the orchestra then expressing much sadness, to which the violin further inveigles the listener’s heartstrings, the music rising in emotion thereafter. The Adagio appassionato also has its quota of enticing expression.
The moral of this story is that there is much excellence beyond Bruch’s ubiquitous First Violin Concerto, fine score if done to death. Sorry for being tardy with this review, but better late than never, and maybe the delay, however unplanned, will pique belated interest and also for Hyperion’s previous Bruch offerings (links below). As for the current issue – Liebeck is splendid, Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra are faithful partners, the recording is top-drawer, and Tully Potter writes an informative booklet note. I hesitate to suggest that Brabbins should now record Bruch’s three Symphonies – if only because he might already have done so and I’ve missed them!