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ever‑more extravagantly filigree lines with an apparently spontaneous ease, Chan responding unerringly to every dynamic shift. And how dramatic are the hushed string tremolos as the mood darkens (track 5, from 4’11”).

After such tension, the finale comes as a delicious balance of extroversion with playfulness, Grosvenor’s virtuosity always at the service of the music, easing into the passage with col legno violins and violas (track 6, 2’08”) with insouciant inevitability. On every hearing new details seem to emerge – the most delicate trilling here, a wonderful snippet of clarinet theme there – but always with a sense of storytelling, Chopin’s evershifting moods lustrously caught. The point where we move to the major (from 6’50”) is gloriously uplifting, and the lyrical interjection just before the close again unerringly judged by all.

Benjamin Grosvenor has also been blessed with a very fine instrument and a fabulous recording. It’s the kind of disc that makes you rethink these works and appreciate them all over again. And let’s hope that this is the start of a wonderful recording partnership with Elim Chan. Harriet Smih Selected comparisons – coupled as above: Zimerman, Polish Fest Orch (A/99) (DG) 459 684-2GH2 Fliter, SCO, Märkl (3/14) (LINN) CKD455

Mozart ‘Piano Concertos, Vol 4’ Piano Concertosa – No 20, K466; No 21, K467. Don Giovanni – Overture a Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf Manchester Camerata / Gábor Takács-Nagy Chandos F CHAN20083 (65’ • DDD)

These miraculous works from the Lenten season of 1785 may be the two

Mozart concertos most commonly paired on disc. Listeners who have heard and enjoyed the previous three volumes in this series (11/16, 10/17, 12/18), however, might have come to expect something a little special from these musicians. They won’t be disappointed, either.

Concertos Nos 20 and 21 represent the ultimate synthesis in Mozart’s mature style, with peaks of technique, inspiration and creative personality conspiring to create works of unprecedented individuality and expressive depth. They form an ideal pair, contrasting the majesty of trumpet-laden C major with the anguished Sturm und Drang of dark

18 GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2020

D minor. The playfulness of No 21’s outer movements encloses one of Mozart’s most sublime creations – the inimitable slow movement that once linked the work with a Swedish B‑movie. Bavouzet and the Manchester Camerata are ideally poised in the fast music, with the conversational interplay between piano and woodwinds displaying the naturalness that is an evident hallmark of this cycle. In performance the Andante is often either dragged out and overburdened with an ersatz ‘expression’ that it can’t bear, or trotted through in an effort to avoid doing just that. Here, Gábor Takács-Nagy sets the ideal tempo – a touch slower than Zacharias for Jan Lisiecki (DG, 9/12) and faster than Marriner for Yeol Eum Son (Onyx, 6/18), to take two recent‑ish recordings – while Bavouzet doesn’t so much sing the cantabile melody as croon it, delaying the down-beats like a nightclub singer and ornamenting liberally. It’s a highly personal take on this all-toofamiliar piece, to be sure, and I love it.

The Don Giovanni Overture makes you catch your breath as it bursts in after the effervescent close of K467, making the Camerata sound like a far bigger band than their numbers suggest. The ground is thus prepared for the D minor of K466, played with the same acuity and charisma as the C major Concerto, even if the central Romance is sung straighter, without the lubricious liberties of the C major’s Andante.

This series of discs is shaping up to be a serious front-runner in a cycle of works that has never wanted for fine recordings. Cadenzas are by Beethoven (K466) and, less predictably, Friedrich Gulda (K467). For this concerto pairing, there are few recordings as fine. David Threasher

Schoenberg Violin Concerto, Op 36a. Verklärte Nacht, Op 4b Isabelle Faust, bAnne Katharina Schreiber vns b Antoine Tamestit, bDanusha Waskiewicz vas b Christian Poltéra, bJean-Guihen Queyras vcs a Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Daniel Harding Harmonia Mundi F HMM90 2341 (63’ • DDD)

Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto can be heard as his typically defiant response to a period of exceptional stress and strain. In 1933, at the age of 58, he was deprived of his professorship in Berlin, and his attempts to establish a new life with his family in America were bedevilled by poor health and offers of unsuitable employment. Only in 1936 did he settle in Los Angeles and it was there, in September, that he finished the concerto, which he’d begun the previous year. No other composition of his – not even the Fourth String Quartet, written at the same time – has quite as powerful a mix of lyrical vulnerability and energetic assertiveness, though the unfinished opera Moses und Aron (begun in 1930 and constantly in his mind thereafter) is evidently a work of the same hand.

That Schoenberg dedicated the Concerto to his pupil Anton Webern could have been a warning as well as a mark of respect – a warning about all that Webern seemed to have renounced in his search for distance between his own compositional style and the great traditions of the classical past which Schoenberg sought to preserve through transformation. That this preservation was a constant struggle will be clear to any violinist tacking this concerto, and there is obviously a better chance in recording than live in concert of avoiding the sense of fingers tending to run ahead of themselves in the ferocious cadenzas that feature in the outer movements. During the past decade or so, recordings by Hilary Hahn and Rolf Schulte have done excellent service in showing that, for all its difficulties, this really is music rather than an arid technical exercise; and for the 2020s Isabelle Faust performs the same function, with admirably alert support from the Swedish RSO under Daniel Harding. Building to its tersely triumphant final cadence, the whole performance is superbly sustained, and as convincing in the reticent eloquence of the central Andante as in the turbulent fireworks that dominate elsewhere, in the orchestra as much as in the solo part.

The range of instrumental colours conveyed by Harmonia Mundi’s excellent recording of the Concerto cannot be matched in Verklärte Nacht, especially in the original string sextet version, shorn of the weighty double basses and opulently enriched textures of Schoenberg’s later string-orchestra arrangement. Yet only in the sextet version can the full interactive, individual virtuosity of this music be realised. Isabelle Faust and her colleagues achieve miracles of coordinated flexibility, making the ultimate advance into Schoenberg’s serenely shimmering coda a truly magical experience. Arnold Whittall Violin Concerto – selected comparisons: Schulte, Philh Orch, Craft (6/00R, 1/09) (NAXO) 8 557528 Hahn, Swedish RSO, Salonen (6/08) (DG) 477 7346GH

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