Mendelssohn
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Schumann
Violin Concerto in D minor
Renaud Capuçon (violin)

Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Daniel Harding

Recorded in November 2003 in the Jugendstilltheater, Vienna
CD No: VIRGIN CLASSICS 5456632
Duration: 58 minutes
Reviewed: November 2004
This CD is transferred at a higher than usual volume level and Renaud Capuçon is balanced too far forward. Thus the playback is simply too loud – all that turning the volume down does is to lose the orchestra focus and immediacy – and Capuçon dominates to a wholly unnatural degree with both he and the orchestra rendered strident. Therefore, it says something for the level of musical artistry documented here that the Mendelssohn can still be recommended and that the Schumann is an essential performance of this enigmatic work.
The Mendelssohn is given a silky-smooth, sweet-toned and, appropriately, passionate rendition that charms and inspires; that said, the lack of a real pianissimo in the Andante is ultimately a grating experience – for which the in-your-face balance is the ultimate conspirator – and the finale, nimbly addressed, similarly lacks variety. Daniel Harding secures an alive and very detailed account of the orchestral score, with some admirable playing from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, but there are times when the orchestra just can’t be heard clearly enough, Capuçon’s violin being too prominent. A very fine performance, though.
Schumann’s Violin Concerto is among his last works. His wife, Clara, decided to keep the work from the public. Its quixotic, secret ideas are constantly fascinating and touching, and show, if not madness, a delirium of emotions. It’s a work with more than its fair share of difficulties for the soloist, which Capuçon is the master of. His sympathy for the music is evident, so too Harding’s, but, once again, there are passages of imbalance with important relationships between violin and orchestra lost. The heartfelt slow movement is given with eloquence, and the tempo for the finale is finely judged, and in which all the performers shape the expressiveness of the music to a nicety, Capuçon spinning a wholly beguiling web of fantasy.

 

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