Itzhak Perlman – Elgar’s Violin Concerto

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.61
Poème, Op.25

Itzhak Perlman (violin)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim [Elgar]

New York Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta

Elgar recorded March 1981 in Orchestra Hall, Chicago; Chausson recorded September 1986 in Manhattan Center, New York

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: December 2007
477 7113
Duration: 64 minutes



For all that the LP was issued in 1982 and the recording has been on ‘silver disc’ in the meantime, this is my first encounter with Itzhak Perlman’s March 1981 version of Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Gratifyingly the soloist is not balanced too forward – as seems to have been his penchant on other concerto recordings – indeed he is naturally placed and is heard by the listener as if at a concert. This allows meaningful integration with the orchestra and full scope to the latter.

Perlman gives a deeply considered account in which nuance and reflective lyricism are to the forefront – allied to lustrous beauty of tone – and if some of his portamento seems too contrived, this is playing of considerable musicianship and virtuosity, as well as displaying real sympathy for the music. Perlman is backed to the hilt by the Chicago Symphony and, by the time of this recording, a seasoned Elgarian in Daniel Barenboim (his previous Elgar tapings, with the London Philharmonic, included the Violin Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman). The conductor even contributes the occasional Barbirolli-like grunt!

A real sense of partnership informs this glowing account – reinforced by the excellence of reproduction – and whether wistful or dramatically charged, the range of emotions inhabiting this concerto are not only fully brought out but made part of the whole: ebb, flow, fluctuation, yearning and heart (sleeve not attached, though!) are all successfully ingrained into a sweep and sensitivity that captures the essence of this music. 25 years on, this is a recording of the work I would not to wish to be without. Perlman’s playing here has been likened to the best of Heifetz and the best of Kreisler (who gave the premiere in 1910) – it’s a very pertinent (and potent) reference.

Elgar’s expansive concerto is attractively coupled with Chausson’s Poème, a dark and mysterious piece, one of those works not heard too often – so that when it does surface, one wonders why it is not more often played. Zubin Mehta conjures apposite veiled sonorities at the opening and Perlman’s unaccompanied first statement is rapt and prayer-like; the performance (albeit with Perlman now somewhat too close) continues on a sweet and elusive journey.

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