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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 (1806) [45:53]
Romance for violin and orchestra No.1 in G, Op.40 (c.1802) [7:11]
Romance for violin and orchestra No.2 in F, Op.50 (c.1798) [9:48]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-97)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (1878) [43:19]
Ayako Yonetani (violin)
Slovak State Philharmonic of Košice/Leoš Svárovský
rec. 2015/17, Dom Umenia, Košice, Slovakia
VENUS CLASSICS 852-346-5551 [62:55 + 43:21]

Ayako Yonetani, a prize-winner at the age of nine at the Japan National violin competition, studied at Juilliard with Hyo Kang and Dorothy Delay, whose assistant she became at the school’s pre-college division and at Aspen. She has long since taken to the world stage and now teaches at the University of Central Florida as well as performing widely and maintaining membership in Japan’s premier chamber ensemble, Kioi Sinfonietta Tokyo. A pairing of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn Concertos was recorded with the Košice State Philharmonic back in 2004 and now she returns to Slovakia for another concerto brace for her fourth solo CD.

Yonetani is paired with Leoš Svárovský for the concertos and because they include the Beethoven Romances as well, two discs are involved. The notable feature of the 2017 recording is that she has selected, as others have, Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s cadenza which he took from Beethoven’s own cadenza for the transcription of the concerto for piano, Op.61a. She has edited the Schneiderhan slightly too. She takes something of a Schneiderhan tempo for the work, come to that, quite expansive in the opening movement and rather sedate in the finale. Nevertheless, the tempo relationships work well and there is evidently rapport between soloist and conductor, the latter bringing out some intriguing wind lines, in particular, that can often be submerged and structurally bracing counter-themes. The slow movement is serenely expressive, the cadential move to the finale finding rougher bowing in the interests of drama. The collegiate dovetailing of solo violin and solo winds is very pleasing and suggests real chamber-scaled sensitivity, and an avoidance of big gestures. Similarly, the Romances are sympathetically drawn and not too strung out, though David Oistrakh was a lot zippier in the F major.

I wasn’t so pleased by the Brahms. This is another measured reading given two years before the Beethoven but here the orchestra lacks optimum weight and the soloist doesn’t seem to show much real sympathy for the work. Her passagework is prone to be over-cautious in the opening movement and her entry in the slow movement lacks repose, whilst what the finale lacks is Hungarian vivacity and a sense of bucolic rhythm. Nor can Svárovský inject much passion into proceedings.

There are page-long biographical notes about both soloist and conductor and a morsel about the cadenza, but nothing else.

Jonathan Woolf

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