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Concerto Cantabile
Violin Concerto
Serenade Melancolique

EMI Classics CDC5 56966 2

This is a welcome programme, with Stravinsky's concerto the only item widely familiar, though in its time it was quite a hard nut to crack, and is far more radical than Shchedrin's recent concerto, premiered by Maxim Vengerov in 1998. This is undemanding, expressive romantic music, intended unusually for violin solo with a full sized string orchestra, as given here. Three movements, the first and last slow. The thematic material is brought together at the end where, says the composer, "the violin should come to resemble a shepherd's pipe", recalling the sound of shepherds' tunes floating across the river during his childhood. Vengerov is recorded forward, supported by the rich tone of the massed strings of the LSO. It will give a lot of pleasure.

The astringency of the Stravinsky which follows is, at first, a welcome contrast. But here I soon found it too comfortable and cushioned, with the soloist forward, as is the norm with most concerto studio recordings. I always find that jarring at first and requiring adjustment for one who, as Editor of Seen&Heard, listens regularly to live music making. (I have a peculiar idiosyncrasy, no doubt, in that I always listen more attentively to what lies behind the obvious foreground.)

Needless to say, Vengerov copes with all the difficulties as if they didn't exist and Rostropovich with the LSO provides a warm orchestral surrounding within which he displays his skill and always impeccably beautiful tone, but it is short on tension. Afterwards, the return to Tchaikowsky (composed for Leopold Auer, maybe in preparation for the violin concerto which followed a few years later) is no drastic contrast, its romantic melancholy not from so different a world as might have been.

Worth collecting for the Shchedrin, for those who revel in romantic violin concertos, but not persuasive for the Stravinsky, which is the most important and longest item in this only hour-long CD.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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