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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op 61 (1806) [44:41]
Max BRUCH (1838 - 1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor, Op. 26 (1868) [25:03]
Kyung-Wha Chung (violin)
Concertgebouw Orchestra, (Beethoven), London Philharmonic Orchestra (Bruch)/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. live, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, November-December 1989 (Beethoven) and at No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, May 1990 (Bruch)
EMI CLASSICS 5034102 [69:57]
Experience Classicsonline

Recordings by Kyung-Wha Chung are never to be ignored, still less these precious collaborations on disc with Klaus Tennstedt. This was however my first encounter with this brace, one (the Bruch) recorded with the conductor’s own LPO at Abbey Road and the Beethoven recorded live over several performances in Amsterdam.
Chung had recorded the Beethoven with Kondrashin. But as with that traversal I’m afraid I found this one lacking in impetus and internal dynamism. The opening is rather lethargic and Tennstedt, rather like that master accompanist Kondrashin, sets a broad tempo, one that naturally aligns with his soloist’s imperatives. There are times it has to be said when his conducting becomes dogged. Chung plays with her familiar sweet but slim toned effervescence – though her rather fast vibrato can limit tonal variety. She does however expend considerable skill on an introspective and inward-looking view at the climax of the first movement, one that vests her playing with sympathetic expression. Where this works less convincingly is in the slow movement, which sounds sentimentalised to an unusual degree. It’s not immediately evident that this is the way the playing will take us, as Chung starts with tender and refined intimacy – but it’s where we end up. The finale is generally well sprung if not necessarily very exciting or compelling. Chung plays the Kreisler cadenzas and Tennstedt balances brass with sometimes interesting results. As a performance though it disappoints.
So too, for different reasons, does the Bruch. It’s Chung’s lack of optimum tonal breadth that limits one’s enthusiasm as much as anything. Her first entry is – or is balanced – far too loud; the sense of presence is evidence of a robust, rather impersonal, not unattractive but ultimately limited view of the score. Tennstedt handles the orchestral fabric competently though without the kind of insight that his German colleague Kurt Masur brought to it in his recording for Salvatore Accardo. Chung indulges one or two expressive finger position changes and she does exhibit introspective assurance, as she had in the companion concerto; but the performance remains confined by her tonal qualities – maybe some will find this a blessing.
But as with her Decca recording with Rudolf Kempe I find the results lack the ultimate in romantic allure.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Ursula Sagar 


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