Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor
Nikolaj Znaider (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: March 2001
CD No: EMI CDC 5 56906 2
If The Classical Source had a ’CD of the Month’ or some such accolade, then Nikolaj Znaider’s debut CD release would be a strong candidate for it. This opening sentence needs to be expanded: The Classical Source is continually developing and EMI’s claim that this CD is “Znaider’s recording debut” should be qualified in that I understand he has previously recorded Sibelius’s concerto; I do not know the label and have no further information.
So in one sense, to the wider public, this is Znaider’s debut – and he couldn’t have introduced himself more positively. First, he has a marvellous coupling in two of the most loveable concertos in the violinists’ repertoire; second, Foster and the LPO give him unstinting support; third, the recording – although slightly favouring the soloist – is superbly open and detailed.
Znaider well withstands the auditory spotlight on him. He’s a fabulous player, quite one of the most individual musicians to have appeared in recent years – for that alone one must be grateful. Interesting shouldn’t be read as controversial or calculated. That he has a superb technique may be taken for granted – it’s what he does as a musician that’s important. He thinks! He is a naturally communicative artist; one senses he is reaching out to share his music-making with listeners. Time and again in Nielsen’s glorious concerto – in which melody and bravura, majesty and wit combine to make such endearing music – one never senses Znaider wants to show-off what he can do. He establishes this at the outset with a superbly confident rendering of his opening solo. OK, he can play; what he also does is colour, inflect and shape in the most beguiling way. Ah, a musician!
What I especially like about Znaider – born in 1975 in Denmark to Polish-Israeli parents – is his ability to invest a phrase in so much poetic meaning. Time and time again in the Nielsen he seems to find more expression – more music if you will – than I can recall from other soloists. Znaider answers the wistful idea that steals in at 1’38” from orchestral violins in the most heartfelt way – and one senses a glance between he and Foster that suggests the closest rapport. Similarly in the cadenza (track 2, 6’09”-9’23”) Znaider expands the music’s emotional possibilities, building an expansive world of expression in which every note speaks, compels attention, and informs of his imagination and long-viewed thinking.
The evergreen Bruch is also new-minted – fresh in response and, again, the product of an intelligent musician. For once, the famous Adagio is at a tempo that justifies the marking – Znaider’s introduction of the wonderful tune is rapt, intense and confidential.
Little more need be said except that Znaider stands out from the crowd. He is the real thing – an intelligent, communicative musician who is also a virtuoso violinist, one who brings so much imagination and interpretative range to what he does. He couldn’t have been better presented or produced as he is here. Foster’s on-the-button conducting and the LPO’s commitment are significant factors to this outstanding release.