BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 4 MENDELSSOHN Double Concerto
There’s no denying the precocity of this Double Concerto, written when Mendelssohn was just 14. Yet for all its flashes of fledgling genius, the adolescent composer hadn’t yet developed the ability to self-edit, and the music can often sound overwrought. Argerich and Kremer (DG, 9/89), balancing ferocity and charm, somehow manage to make every note meaningful, even in the protracted and voluble opening Allegro. Some performers cheat here – Lonquich, Weithaas and Camerata Bern (Claves, A/11), for example – charging through as if Mendelssohn had marked it Allegro molto and two beats to a bar instead of four.
Happily, the musicians on this Signum recording respect the letter of the score. Pianist Min-Jung Kym and violinist Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay meet the concerto’s considerable technical demands with aplomb, although they occasionally get bogged down in its intricate, repetitive detail. They find firmer footing in the recitativo passage at 8'07", which they imbue with an improvisatory frisson. There’s both tenderness and poise in the Adagio, and if conductor Clemens Schuldt’s decision to pare the Philharmonia strings down to a solo group at 6'06" is an interpretative embellishment, at least it’s true to the score’s spirit. The finale dances with a graceful, playful ease that’s worlds away from Argerich and Kremer’s dizzying, dazzling breathlessness, but satisfies nonetheless.
Kym’s Beethoven is considerably less persuasive. Slack rhythms make her leisurely tempo for the opening Allegro moderato feel sleepy. And where’s the sense of wonder in the various sudden shifts of key and colour? The Andante’s Orphic dialogue is eloquently dramatised but the Rondo is too strait-laced, despite some lovely, lyrical playing from soloist and orchestra near the end (from 7'32").