BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending
Recorded live in Riga in front of an exceptionally well-behaved audience, soloist Thomas Gould (leader of the Aurora Orchestra and co-leader of the Britten Sinfonia) masterminds a delectably articulate and pliant account of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with his bright-eyed and eagerly responsive Latvian colleagues. There’s a security, familiarity and silky warmth about Gould’s tasteful contribution that many will find gratifying – he’s been playing the concerto regularly for a good number of years now. His performance is also notable for its stimulating deployment of Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s cadenzas, based in turn on the composer’s own that he fashioned for the piano version of the concerto, and which will already be familiar to some collectors from the Austrian virtuoso’s much-loved stereo remake of the concerto with Eugen Jochum and the BPO (DG, 11/62). Listen out for the violin’s good-humoured banter with the timpanist from 20'19" in the first movement, and the cleverly integrated quotation of the opening measures a little later at 22'02". The Larghetto slow movement receives beautifully poised advocacy, eschewing any suggestion of syrupy affectation or expressive mannerism, and I love the way the linking cadenza towards the close cheekily anticipates the finale’s bouncy jig. Indeed, all goes swimmingly in this concluding Rondo: the playing from soloist and chamber orchestra alike has terrific rhythmic élan to commend it, and the joyously toe-tapping swagger of the coda is sure to raise a smile.
I also derived heaps of pleasure from this team’s profoundly sensitive rendering of The Lark Ascending. Gould soars aloft with effortless grace, tenderness and fragrant poetry, and the performance as a whole serves up a most moving distillation of transportive ecstasy, loss and heartache. Plaudits, too, for the naturally balanced, finely focused and full-bodied sound picture achieved by Normunds ne¯, who also happens to be Sinfonietta Riga’s Artistic Director and Chief Conductor – clearly a man of many talents! This coupling from Edition Classics earns an enthusiastic thumbs-up.