MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Beethoven violin 4838946
Support us financially by purchasing from

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor Op.61 [43.41]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Adagio from Sonata for Violin Solo Nr.1 in G minor MWV 1001 [4:28]
Daniel Lozakovich (violin)
Münchner Philharmoniker/Valery Gergiev
rec. 2019, Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 483 8946 [48:09]

“It is simply the greatest concerto.” This is what Daniel Lozakovich says of the Beethoven in the booklet notes. It is, I think, something recognised more often by those who play this concerto than by many of those who listen to it. It’s certainly the ideal starting point to review any performance of this work – empathy with something is considerably better than antipathy to it – and it is worth remembering that after its first performance by Franz Clement in 1806 there was rather lot of the latter towards this concerto.

Over the years I have come to understand one thing about this masterpiece: soloists will bleed to bring out a great performance of it; it is something they will rarely do for other concertos. The greatest interpreters of this work give something – perhaps even sacrifice a part – of themselves up for this concerto in each performance: Erich Röhn, Oistrakh, Milstein, Kogan, Huberman, Kreisler, Hirshorn; Christian Ferras – for me – could be said to have burnt the candle at both ends, ultimately as a tragic soul-bearer. Only very rarely are the deep secrets of this concerto gifted to those violinists under twenty. Anne-Sophie Mutter’s, in her first recording with Karajan, was made when she was eighteen-years old; a live recording made around the same time is extraordinary enough and it certainly belies the soloist’s age and – apparently to some – even her gender. Nevertheless, the Beethoven concerto only became a successful work once a twelve-year old Joseph Joachim had performed it.

This particular concerto is an anomaly. It is not the most technically difficult, but in other ways it is a work of astonishing difficulty: it has one of the most perilous violin entries of any concerto, for example. But it differs from many others in the violin repertoire in that its complexities often range outside the norms of a conventional violin concerto. This is a work which masquerades as a concerto, but is really chamber music, and in this case it sometimes feels it has more in common with Beethoven’s string quartets. The guiding principle of a great performance of the piece is that it doesn’t, in essence, need the soloist to impose an interpretation on the work. The greatest recordings of the Beethoven come from unlocking its very soul, its inner secrets; this it shares with both the Elgar and Shostakovich First concertos. What Christian Ferras – my comparative soloist here – and Daniel Lozakovich both do is to give us a vision of the Beethoven that comes from within the concerto rather than one that is coerced onto it.

Ferras was nineteen years old when he made his 1951 recording in Berlin with Karl Böhm – and Lozakovich the same age when he made this recording in Munich. The Ferras differs from the Lozakovich in that it was made in the studio but there is absolutely nothing about the Ferras recording which might suggest it was. Listen to this performance and it has the shallow scars – which would become deeper ones over the years – of a soloist who penetrates the soul of this work like few others. This 1951 performance – already partly drenched in some kind of angst – is the chrysalis of Ferras’s long struggle with this work which would culminate in an unbearably tragic performance given in Paris on 30th May 1967 – the same year he made his DG recording with Karajan. It is Beethoven fully articulated by several decades of inner torment – and it’s difficult to separate the music from the man. It is not infallible – Ferras stumbles at the ascending scale – but its powerful expressiveness borders on the harrowing in a work never really played this way (although the greatest model for this kind of performance remains the Röhn/Furtwängler from 1944).

Great performances express something rich and unique to the artists who play the work. The Ferras is about raw, emotional power; Erich Röhn’s is extraordinary for unifying profound beauty with a sense of foreboding and horror. If Lokazovich has learned anything from these two great violinists it is that you can fuse power and beauty together and create a compelling recording of the concerto, a concept which today seems slightly unfashionable in this work.

Seventy years separate the Lozakovich and Ferras recordings – close to what we might call two generations – but it isn’t a surprise that Lozakovich should come from a very different place and that he is travelling somewhere different as well. Like many great performances of this concerto it is technically flawless, a little dazzling even, in a concerto which doesn’t really encourage this style of playing. Lozakovich could have fallen into the trap of only giving us this kind of Beethoven – the frigid perfection of Jascha Heifetz or Ruggiero Ricci, for example. He largely doesn’t. What he has in common with Ferras – and the wonderful Hirshorn recording, too – is a tendency to put Beethoven before the soloist. The amount of portamenti or number of harmonics you get in a Heifetz recording of the Beethoven Concerto (often more striking in the 1940 Toscanini than the 1955 Munch) spotlights Heifetz, for example. There is none of this with Lozakovich.

Ironically, the first movement opens in a very Heifetz way: the opening bar for Lozakovich is so icy and precise he forgets what Ferras doesn’t – and that is to bring mystery to it. Beethoven overlaps the violin and orchestra so we never get the perfect cadence – listen to Ferras [3:06] (Audite) or [3:05] (Arioso), my two preferred transfers of this performance – and he rises through the mist of the orchestra to make his opening ascent in octaves. Lozakovich, at a surprising [3:20] – one rather expected to get there rather faster given Gergiev’s considerably more dynamic opening on the five-note timpani figure – and our young soloist rises beautifully, even hedonistically, through the orchestra, but the hesitancy is just a touch too frigid for me. Turn to the Erich Röhn recording and is it his wisdom – or simply the guiding hand of God or Furtwängler (one, or the same?) – that makes his first entry appear as if he is simply emerging through the orchestra like a veil of melting wax moving inexorably down a candle?

Ferras treats the repeat at the development with all the mystery of his opening [10:42 (Audite)]; Lozakovich, it seems, prefers – again – to thread the same narrative [10:44]. It is perhaps during the second violin solo (bars 284 – 364) that we first hear the key difference in approach to this concerto between Lozakovich and Ferras. The great emotional heart of the movement, with the soloist soaring above the orchestra’s strings in a beautifully ascending passage, [Lozakovich 12:39 – 13:59] and [Ferras 12:47 – 14:33], is distinctive in that Ferras broadens his tempo (as most violinists do); Lozakovich takes a much more fluid approach which is more in line with Beethoven’s score marking. Neither soloist deviates too much from the other in actual timing, but the sense of space is vast with Ferras lengthening his notes markedly as Lozakovich shortens his. Neither soloist is less expressive than the other although this will depend on what you will want to hear in the music and, more importantly, how you want to hear it; neither fails to get to the core of this section of the work, either. But, Ferras will drag you in with him whether you like it or not; with Lozakovich you may find yourself more able to resist.

Lozakovich gives us something, I think, that is closer to Beethoven but he can also tend to rip the emotional heart out of the music too. The beauty is skin deep, but as so often with Beethoven’s marked tempos the outcome is rarely close to ideal. Here, no one quite matches the operatic Röhn – not quite as extensively broad as Ferras – but so tragically human. One of the very few violinists in this concerto capable of using his instrument to sound like a choir rather than strings, his bowing is not simply a means of achieving one note to the next but of one different operatic sound to the next.

Ferras’s style of playing – from the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing, traced back through Enesco and Bistesi to Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps – was unconventional. Indeed, it was so at odds with a normal technique one wondered how he produced the sound he did: the high bow arm (in one sense a hallmark of French violin playing) and slightly hunched shoulders, the large hands (reminiscent of Elman), the concave fingers and thumb – and yet his sound was astonishing, like liquid honey, profound, haunting and with phenomenal control of dynamics. He could spin a pianissimo into the thinnest of silken endings; they almost vanished they were so superbly well-articulated. This 1951 Beethoven may sound a little old-fashioned to modern ears – the portamento, the occasional slides – but as an example of French playing it is Ferras at his best.

You only have to hear the brighter tone of Lozakovich in that meltingly beautiful second violin solo passage of the first movement to hear an entirely different kind of soloist at work. Ferras’s idiosyncratic style doesn’t mask a technique in his early years that is faultless (it would later become more erratic) but this is a performance of the Beethoven concerto which is almost anti-virtuoso. Lozakovich, on the other hand, benefits from having none of the shortcomings in Ferras’s playing style and yet his performance feels entirely virtuoso, though is hardly a servant of it – the bow arm is perfectly aligned, his hands and fingers models of elegance. It’s hard to find anywhere in this performance where Lozakovich doesn’t play a note that isn’t impeccably done, that isn’t stylishly played; he is the first violinist of the current generation I have come across to effortlessly sound old-school and with the most aristocratic sound to match, although he also sounds utterly contemporary as well.

Lozakovich’s Kreisler cadenza (starting at [19:50]) is quite special. It is perhaps his finest moment. Despite this recording coming from a live concert, the sound is remarkably fine – indeed, the clarity – and sheer closeness – of the sound could leave the soloist very exposed here. The quality of Lozakovich’s playing is of magnificent finesse, however. His bowing and fingering are surgically precise. It’s not difficult to see why his playing of the Kreisler cadenza should come off with such remarkable maturity and definition. Three years earlier Lozakovich had recorded Bach’s Partita Nr.2 in D minor. Its Chaconne demands a lifetime’s wisdom from any violinist; it is music which gravitates towards profound spirituality and raw emotion. Lozakovich is amply supple with his tone and sounds mature enough without having decades of wisdom in his rear mirror. But what it shares with the Kreisler cadenza is a marvellous purity and inner depth, and a rich, almost baritonal, resonance.

This cadenza is sixty-six bars of pure magic, with a breath-taking pianissimo at [22:30]. It’s a cadenza that seems to come and go in a single arc, Apollonian in its aristocratic discipline, yet Lozakovich intoxicates the listener because he treats the cadenza like a soliloquy. This is the violinist as Hamlet – and it is hallmarked with the stamp of near-greatness all over it. He doesn’t come particularly close to matching the intensity of Erich Röhn’s tragic power; but then, the circumstances of that performance are vastly different.

Depending on who is playing it, the Larghetto can fall anywhere between heaven and hell. The best performances treat the solo part as if they were playing the slow movement of a sonata rather than that of a concerto. A touch of introspection is needed here, a dialogue with the orchestra to make the most of all those small silences and pauses which are inflections throughout this movement. It reaffirms what we know this concerto to be; chamber music in scale. That being said, the music is not in any sense as abstract or conceptual as that of the first movement but it can often sound both as destabilised and serene as it.

Lozakovich brings two things to the Larghetto. The first is that you never lose track of the musical drama in a movement that if it even overruns for just a short amount of time can become difficult to manage. Tempi here are just about well judged – in fact, they’re very fast at slightly over nine minutes (both Ferras and Röhn are near eleven minutes, very slightly on the slower end). Secondly, his playing is engaging, too. Much of it, especially above the stave – which Beethoven extensively does in this movement – is beautiful. Technically, it’s superbly done: complex weaving of sextuplets and demi-semiquavers, fabulous trills, arabesques and a great sense of contrast, even at the tempo he adopts. He is every bit as persuasive as the incandescent Ferras, although no match – but then neither is Ferras – for the merging of lyricism and power of the Röhn recording.

There is further disruption to the balance of the music – only for the soloist to reimpose its equilibrium – in the Rondo. The more obviously virtuoso music of the concerto it, too, doesn’t have any of the intellectual complexity of the vast first movement. The Rondo does, however, come across most convincingly in performances where the soloist is entirely aware that he is the master of much of the movement – there is dramatic tension here, a discourse that is more pronounced than earlier, and a fight between the dominant major and the minor. Lozakovich’s Rondo [10:00] sits in the middle of those by Röhn, who is over a minute quicker [8:57], and Ferras who is almost a minute slower [10:46].

The playing needs more virtuosity than in the rest of the concerto – there is challenging passage work, especially between bb. 60-90 – although where the soloist should be most impressive is in both the cadenza and the coda. Lozakovich’s cadenza – again the Kreisler – is every bit as gorgeously done as his was in the first movement. He shares with Ferras – perhaps because of their youth – a very gritty and resolute approach to the coda. This is markedly different from Röhn and Furtwängler who are entirely driven by power, with the soloist almost having the onslaught of a Samurai. This coda is a battle – the violin demanding to show its supremacy over the orchestra scattering it with eruptions and upheaval in arpeggios and scales: the final moment of confrontation that has been building for almost forty minutes. The soloist inserts his dominance by playing at fortissimo, again in arpeggios, forcing the orchestra into retreat. It’s where the concerto completely disregards its chamber music design in favour of something more conventional and which would prove more influential to later composers like Brahms and Mendelssohn when they came to write their violin concertos.

All violinists make the coda the focal point in their performances – or should. The question becomes how they do it and how we hear it done. The Röhn is unique – both because he has Furtwängler and because of the historical setting of the performance. Both Ferras and Lozakovich – and Anne-Sophie Mutter with Karajan, I think – bring the power of youth to the Beethoven concerto that, too, is of the moment. These are performances that although they differ in certain ways have in common the unique distinction of being ground-breaking.

I have not yet really mentioned Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic. I am not generally a great admirer of this conductor but I do concede that he is a superb accompanist. That is the case here. Great performances don’t just happen because the soloist is great they need a great conductor and orchestra – Böhm, Karajan and Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic, and Gergiev and the Munch Philharmonic were indispensable contributors to what turned out to be wonderful performances of the Beethoven concerto.

The disc is rounded off with the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata for Violin Solo Nr.1 in G minor BMV 1001. As with the Chaconne from the Partita Nr.2, which accompanied an earlier Bach disc, the quality of the playing is superb. Whether a full cycle of the six Bach pieces will show the maturity the works need – and which Lozakovich is working up to, seemingly very slowly – will prove fascinating. There is no lack of brilliance here.

This seems to me Daniel Lozakovich’s most exceptional disc to date. It is also an exceptional Beethoven Violin Concerto.

Marc Bridle

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing