Baiba Skride

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.77 (Op.99)
Violin Concerto (The Wandering of a Little Soul) [Reconstructed by Leoš Faltus & Miloš Stedron]

Baiba Skride (violin)

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Mikko Franck [Shostakovich]

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Marek Janowski

Shostakovich recorded at concerts on 16-18 April 2004, Philharmonie, Munich; Janáček recorded on 25 August 2004 in RRB, Berlin

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: May 2006
Duration: 53 minutes

Born in 1981 into a musical family, Baiba Skride is from Riga and was the First-Prize Winner in the 2001 Queen Elizabeth Competition. This is her third recording for Sony Classical. In the year 2006, Shostakovich’s centenary, it is both reasonable and competitive that she should issue a disc on which the main work should be the oft-recorded Violin Concerto No.1, equally oft-recorded (officially and from archives) by David Oistrakh who gave the premiere in 1955.

On the strength of the Shostakovich, Skride has a compelling and direct way of communicating; her plangent tone, unforced emotional intensity and always-musical phrasing getting to the emotional heart of this work. Whatever the codes and ciphers of the piece (there’s always a danger that this composer’s music is constantly searched for extra-musical references), Skride seems to want to let the music speak for itself – but she takes responsibility for projecting it with heart, vividness and poise – and in the fast music with an edge that is wholly appropriate; and she has a big heart in the soaring lines of the third movement Passacaglia.

Aided by a well-detailed, pungent and sonorous accompaniment under the always-interesting, if quixotic, Mikko Franck – here proving to be a sympathetic partner and with the Munich Philharmonic alert and purposeful – this a fresh reading, at once familiar but not tainted by familiarity. Being individual for its own sake doesn’t seem to be part of Skride’s agenda; this is honest, skilled and vibrant music-making. The recording, from three concerts, is good, Skride given no limelight-hogging forward balance, the orchestra there to be heard and intercede as required, albeit the acoustic itself is a little to resonant and some textures are rendered rather thick, and some frequencies gain a ‘pingy’ response from the ambience.

Given a couple of ‘slippery’ moments from the soloist in the first movement are retained, as is some between-movement audience rustle, and the cadenza seems an integrated part of the performance (that is, not a post-concert makeover), it appears that the movements chosen from the three concerts have been left ‘as was’. That long cadenza fizzes into the pointed and increasingly potent finale. Applause is retained, albeit 75 seconds is rather too much.

The Janáček concerto, musically linked to his opera “From the House of the Dead” and subtitled ‘The Wandering of a Little Soul’ was left incomplete at the composer’s death; its completion, as ever with such things, wrestles the mind as to whether every detail is quite as the composer would have required it; but better to have this pithy and concise work available than for it to remain a tantalising fragment. Recorded under studio conditions, and with a natural balance once again gratifyingly realised, Marek Janowski is alive to the incision and activity needed for Janáček’s music, and Baiba Skride has all the heightened projection required for music that is either passionately musing or seeking ecstasy.

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