Beethoven/Bruch Violin Concertos
Kyung Wha Chung has recorded both of these central concertos before, but in this generous and attractive coupling these EMI performances not only have the benefit of more modern sound but are more spontaneous in their expressive warmth. Maybe encouraged by their success with Perlman's most recent account of the Beethoven, recorded live in Berlin, EMI here offer another live recording, this time with Tennstedt and the Royal Concertgebouw, even more vividly atmospheric than the Berlin one. I remember Chung telling me of the performance she had given with Tennstedt some years ago, a special experience for her, and this subsequent occasion resulted in a collaboration comparably searching and intense.
If Chung's studio recording with Kondrashin on Decca tended to lack impetus—the fault of the conductor rather than of the soloist—this one sustains spacious speeds very persuasively indeed. Chung is lighter and more mercurial than Perlman, often more freely flexible in her approach to Beethoven, as Tennstedt is too, but magnetically keeping an overall command. Perlman may convey magisterial certainty, but the element of vulnerability in Chung's reading adds to the emotional weight, above all in the slow movement, which in its wistful tenderness is among the most beautiful on disc. Chung gains too from the fact that she is not balanced quite so closely as Perlman. As for the outer movements they are full of flair, with a live event bringing few if any penalties in flaws of ensemble or other blemishes.
Unlike the Beethoven, the Bruch was recorded in the studio with the LPO, yet compared with her earlier Decca recording, this one reflects Chung's growing ease in the studio. Notoriously, she dislikes the constraints of recording, when she is so essentially spontaneous in her expressiveness. Here her expressive rubato is freer, so that in the first movement the opening theme is more impulsive, and her freedom in the second subject vividly conveys the sort of magic you find in her live performances. The slow movement brings extreme contrasts of dynamic and expression from orchestra as well as soloist, and the finale is again impulsive in its bravura. The only rival disc offering this excellent coupling is EMI's own mid-price issue of David Oistrakh's vintage recordings. That makes this new release an exceptionally attractive one, and essential listening for this much-loved violinist's admirers.'