Nicola Benedetti – Bruch & Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35

Nicola Benedetti (violin)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Jakub Hrůša

Recorded 30 January-1 February 2010 in Dvořák Hall, Prague

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: October 2010
CD No: DG 476 4092
Duration: 60 minutes



Two of the most popular and oft-recorded of violin concertos come together from Nicola Benedetti, with the added attraction of the Czech Philharmonic, save this illustrious ensemble is rather recessed in the resonant, wishy-washy mix of sound, and although Benedetti isn’t given star-billing prominence in the balance, the orchestra is rather too backwardly placed; the result is too politic an accompaniment, however attentive and accurate, but this is not the integrated coming-together of soloist, conductor and orchestra that great concerto performances require, especially when the choices are rarely out of the concert hall and studio.

If the Czech Phil is vibrant because of the acoustic, and Jakub Hrůša leads (if not always clearly in this opulent setting) a collegiate accompaniment, then this is very much Benedetti’s show, one that she brings off with style and chutzpah, but not whimsy. To her credit, even in such familiar works as these, she has no need of being different for the sake of it.

Her Tchaikovsky (placed first) is gypsy-fiery and intense, eloquently shaped and deeply felt. The middle-movement ‘Canzonetta’ enjoys it moonlit-tints, and the finale has all the impetus (and no cuts) that it needs. This is a refreshingly direct performance, innate in its personality, fanciful notions left outside in a Prague thoroughfare. Yet, for all the great masterpieces that Tchaikovsky left us, the Violin Concerto always seems rather less of one, however powerful the advocacy of it is, and Benedetti certainly plays it with complete conviction.

Yet Max Bruch’s G minor example – for all its day-in popularity and at the expense of his other two violin concertos (and not to forget his large-scale Serenade and the heavenly Scottish Fantasy) – retains its magnificence and beauty. Once again, Benedetti gives a performance based solidly in the music itself, and her prudence is admirable, her love for the music unassailable, a mix of passion and intimacy, the orchestra out there somewhere, a big blob of sound, the central Adagio beautifully arrived at and emerging as a revealing of the soul. The finale enjoys vigour and articulacy, no stomping showpiece this, Benedetti consistently musical and beneficent.

It’s a real shame about the relegated and blowsy-sounding orchestra, whether by design or because of the acoustic, but, although the full story of these works emerges as orchestrally compromised, Benedetti fans needn’t hesitate: her freshness of approach rejuvenates these potentially tired pieces.

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