Ning Feng, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Yang Yang – Bruch: Scottish Fantasy / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto (2013)
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After two very successful solo discs it was time for Chinese violin star Ning Feng to move on and record two beautiful pieces for solo violin and orchestra. The great success of Max Bruch’s 1st Violin Concerto cast a shadow over his other music. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D is a breathtakingly virtuosic work from becoming one of the most frequently performed of all violin concertos.
Violinists visiting Max Bruch to play him his 1st Violin Concerto (the violin concerto, though he wrote three) were chased away by the composer, who shouted that he had written a lot more than just that. The great success of this delightful piece has cast a shadow over his other music. And those who know the work – or hear it for the first time – understand only too well why, for it is rightly one of the most popular of allromantic violin concertos. However, Bruch another work for violin and orchestra which is perhaps even more special. For the soloist it is technically more more difficult than the 1st Violin Concerto, and it is a free fantasy rather than a traditional threemovement concerto. It is the Scottish Fantasy op. 46 for violin and orchestra (1880), written for the legendary virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, a Spaniard who spent his entire life in France. Shortly before, Edouard Lalo had composed his exotic and daredevil Symphonie Espagnole (1875) for De Sarasate. This is another strange mixture of symphony, solo concerto and suite. Bruch hesitated to use the title fantasy’, since this is usually a rather short piece in free form, while he had written a considerable work lasting half an hour, with a range of contrasting moods.
Ning Feng’s account of the Tchaikovsky is notably elegant. The fast, high passages sound wonderfully clear and pure, and the first movement, in particular, abounds in balletic grace – surely a part of the music’s essential character. In the cadenza, performed just as Tchaikovsky wrote it, without any of the little ‘improvements’ we often hear, he reveals a finely honed sense of timing, which also comes into play in the introductory solo to the finale; and as the finale gets under way, Feng’s liveliness and precision ensure an impression of real vivacity. The Andante, on the slow side, is persuasively elegiac. The only point where Ning Feng’s refinement hampers his performance is during the finale’s folksy episodes where, ignoring the composer’s indication for glissando, he sounds altogether too polite for such rustic music.
01. Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46: I. Introduction – Grave
02. Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46: II. Adagio cantabile
03. Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46: III. Scherzo – Allegro-Adagio
04. Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46: IV. Andante sostenuto
05. Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46: V. Finale, Allegro guerriero
06. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35: I. Allegro moderato
07. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35: II. Canzonetta – Andante
08. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35: III. Finale, Allegro vivacissimo
Produced & Edited by Jared Sacks. Engineered by Tom Rußbüldt.
Recorded on November 22-24, 2012 at Teldex Studio Berlin.
Ning Feng – violin
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Yang Yang – conductor