This is now volume 13 in Hyperion’s ‘The Romantic Violin Concerto’ series. It focuses on Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor, which is not such a rarity since having been ‘rediscovered’ in the 1930s, but adds the composer’s own arrangement for violin of his Cello Concerto in A minor and the intriguing and largely successful Phantasie in C major.
Historically the two most important recordings of the Concerto in D were made in the 1930s by Menuhin in New York and Kulenkampff in Berlin. Since then, though, there have been a small number of discs reflecting that the excitement of the delayed premiere in 1937 has not, in truth, lasted the decades. Even Joachim, for whom the work was written, liked only the central movement and was instrumental in suppressing the concerto after Schumann’s death.
Anthony Marwood has certainly devoted himself to Schumann’s cause on disc. His Hyperion recording of the sonatas was terrifically assured, and now he turns to the broader canvasses offered here. His tone is sweetly centred, and avoids excessive contrasts between the upper and lower strings, so equalisation is the name of the game. So, too, is a certain chamber-scaled approach, with give-and-take with the orchestral wind principals. The fast passagework in the first movement is surely dispatched, and the slow movement’s introspective meditation is calibrated finely: not too emotive, but certainly not too cool. Joachim wasn’t at all taken by what he saw as the formulaic repetitions in the finale, but Marwood and Douglas Boyd keep the music on the go and bring out its felicitous colour the better to limit those kinds of limitations. This fine performance is not dissimilar to that of Ulf Wallin on BIS [SACD1775], another fine chamber and concerto soloist whose programme matches Marwood’s.
The Cello Concerto was arranged in 1853 by Schumann as his Violin Concerto in A minor Op.129. It was probably intended once more for Joachim. The violin version works quite well and in this modestly scaled performance its inherent lyricism stands fully revealed. Marwood is not one to employ expressive portamenti, as he’s a notably clean-limbed kind of musician, but I do think they are part of the romantic arsenal. The Phantasie mixes strenuous declamation with episodes of fluent lyricism. The cadenza is probably a touch too long for a 15 minute work, but gives the soloist opportunities for a digital workout. It’s a good piece, whose reputation has fluctuated wildly over the years, and gets a fine performance here.
Those who want Schumann’s violin works in this way will not go wrong with this release; I very slightly prefer Wallin’s performance of the Concerto in D but Marwood’s three performances are of a consistently high standard.