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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 (1917) [23:45]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (1935) [27:46]
Matthew Trusler (violin)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Grant Llewellyn
rec. 2016, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

Matthew Trusler is not short on adventurous spirit. Working with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales he has taken up cudgels for two Welsh composers: the concertos by William Mathias and Grace Williams. The Sibelius and Barber concertos are also among the works he has given in concert. For Dutton he has recorded works for violin and orchestra by Julius Harrison and Montague Phillips. Nor is Trusler a novitiate so far as Orchid Classics is concerned. He has set down for them versions of the Britten (ORC100037), Rozsa and Korngold (ORC100005) and a Fairy Tales disc with Kenneth Branagh and other actors (ORC100030).

Prokofiev’s First Concerto had the blessing of a truly great first recording at the hands of Beecham and Szigeti. Its trembling magic is well ensnared by Trusler and the orchestra and Grant Llewellyn shows typical sensitivity. This recording radiates integrity. Here is a soloist who does not big up the score but brings to it both joy and precision. Its Russian lacquer fairy-tale miniature spirit must emerge glistening, pin-sharp and at times both coarsely brusque and scorchingly fast. These qualities are accomplished and we are reminded again what a loveable master-work this is.

The longer Second Concerto dates from the same years as the Romeo and Juliet ballet and there are links between these two works, especially in the first movement of the Concerto. Trusler's tempered and steady-toned playing is a great asset in the slow sauntering Andante assai. Also, I must not undersell the delicate, balletic, hushed pizzicato playing of the BBCNOW strings nor the violinist's heart-filling eloquence. I do not recall this movement being better done, not even by Oistrakh (review review). The rasping finale has all the inspiriting skimming and scuffing abrasion of the First Concerto but here mobilised as a Russian country dance.

The disc's English-only booklet has a good essay by Joanna Wyld who among much else reminds me that the premiere of the First Concerto was intended for Pavel Kochanski who was at the time (1917) teaching at the Petrograd Conservatory. Kochanski was the dedicatee of the two Szymanowski violin concertos.

In terms of running time these two concertos are on the wrong side of parsimony at just short of 52 minutes. It's a pity another work could not have been found (perhaps the Shchedrin-orchestrated Five Melodies op. 35 bis). I fear that for this reason, despite the golden interpretations and sound, this disc will struggle to make headway in a munificently thronged catalogue. Grocerly values, it's true, but there's no shortage of commanding discs offering both concertos and more.

Rob Barnett



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