Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.77 (1878) [36:55] ¹
Double Concerto in A minor Op.102 (1887) [32:31] ²
David Nadien (violin); Leonard Rose (cello)
Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra/Vilem Sokol, rec. 1973 ¹
Stratford Festival Orchestra/George Schick, rec. July 1968 ²
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD146 [69:37]
David Nadien has found a fine champion in Cembal d’amour, a label that evinces dedication to its selected roster of musicians. The latest Nadien disc is an all-Brahms affair, conjoining a 1973 performance of the Concerto with an earlier traversal of the Double Concerto featuring the august collaboration of Leonard Rose.
The Violin Concerto is accompanied by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and Vilem Sokol. There is some tentative orchestral work, at least at the work’s start, and it would be idle to pretend that the valiant attentions of the orchestra match the standards routinely expected in studio recordings. This, however, is different and represents the documentation of Nadien’s performances, so one should listen foremost to the soloist, and to his way with the work. That way is quite brisk, and as anyone with even a passing interest in him will know, his was a very linear way.
Nadien was never one to hang around. His sense of rhythmic inflexion meant that he maintained a taut approach to tempi, though not one that equated to terseness. Listen at 4:13 in the first movement to the way in which he intensifies the solo line, in highly personalised fashion. It’s an approach that will compel or deter, according to taste. Certainly this kind of muscular intensity is worlds away from the Perlman-Giulini approach to the concerto, in which an air of seraphic nonchalance can intrude. Portamenti and rubati are strongly part of Nadien’s expressive arsenal, though it’s a shame that his violin is not a little more centre stage in the sound spectrum. As for Nadien, his phrasing in the slow movement is at its most Heifetzian. Throughout this is resilient and consonant playing, clearly shaped in the finale and highly effective.
For the Double Concerto he was teamed with Leonard Rose, whose studio recording of the work with Isaac Stern and Eugene Ormandy is very well remembered (review), and admired. They make for a resonantly strong pairing, though one that has differing approaches to vibrato speed; Nadien’s is faster and more insistent, Rose’s is slower and broader and less prone to over-intensity. They are at their most successful perhaps in the finale, and at their least successful in the Andante where some of the phrasing is less convincing. In the finale, though, the sense of conversational fluency is highly personable and convincing - not least in the exchanges with the orchestra’s wind principals. It’s a pity the off-air recording is not brilliantly balanced, certainly not in respect of the percussion, which is frighteningly loud in places.
These recordings and performances are certainly not unproblematic, but they exude character and vital engagement. Nadien was a past master at both.
Jonathan Woolf  

Certainly not unproblematic but exuding character and vital engagement. Nadien was a past master at both.