Brahms Violin Concerto, Op 77. 21 Hungarian Dances, Wo01
This performance of the Violin Concerto was recorded at a concert in January 2009. It reveals Baiba Skride as the complete violinist, with an exceptionally precise, reliable technique, splendid tone and presence, and discerning musicianship, who makes the quietest moments tell. And her playing is complemented by a sympathetic, finely balanced accompaniment. I love the way that her entry in the finale at 0'48" is so light and playful, throwing into relief the moment when she storms in with the octaves of the second theme. The Adagio is full of fine expressive touches, yet maintains a sense of gentle onward flow. In the first movement, however, I did wonder whether she lingered too much over the more meditative passages. The effect is often extremely beautiful but I was reminded that Isabelle Faust (Harmonia Mundi, 6/11) is able to do justice to each element in Brahms’s patchwork while maintaining the movement’s symphonic momentum. Faust, however, doesn’t quite match Skride’s compelling intensity in more virtuoso passages, such as the approach to the recapitulation (tr 1, 12'07").
Skride is also a persuasive advocate for the Hungarian Dances. Hagai Shaham with Arnon Erez (Hyperion, 8/08) give a more full-blooded account, maybe, with broader vibrato and, on occasion, a more forceful style, but the Skride sisters, with their idiomatic, unexaggerated introduction of gypsy-style rhythmic flexibility, succeed in characterising each dance more vividly. Not surprisingly perhaps, their ensemble is impeccable, and though Baiba, in a printed interview, confesses she finds the Joachim arrangement “terribly difficult”, she appears perfectly at ease throughout, offering a fine tone and pure intonation.