Brahms Violin Concerto (with 16 cadenzas)

Author: 
Lionel Salter

Brahms Violin Concerto (with 16 cadenzas)

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

There is a notable realism about this recording (by Bob Auger), the soloist sounding as he would in a concert-hall rather than boosted as in most studio recordings, and the oboe in the Adagio obviously an orchestral soloist rather than a spotlit star. As a performance of the concerto per se, however, this is not, perhaps, near the top of the list of available versions: certainly extremely capable, worthy and acceptable, but not the most soul-searching or captivating. The first movement is taken very, very deliberately—as in so many performances nowadays, Brahms's tempo indication Allegro non troppo seems to have been forgotten—and, surprisingly for a conductor of del Mar's experience, the trumpets are too insistent from bar 26. Ricci's famous virtuosity does not preclude an occasional less than impeccably placed note in the highest register nor some slightly untidy octaves in the finale.
But other factors make this a disc unique in the catalogue, and one not to be missed. It is traditional for violinists to play the cadenza by Joachim, the work's dedicatee and first performer, but in the body of the work Ricci has instead chosen the admirable (and shorter) one by Busoni which is exceptional in being accompanied, first by menacing drum-rolls and later by strings. However, with fantastic zeal and technical prowess Ricci then proceeds to add 15 alternative cadenzas, which can be programmed in at the appropriate spot. Besides the Joachim itself there are cadenzas by Joachim's fellow-pupil Edmund Singer and by Joachim's pupils Hugo Heermann and Leopold Auer; by Auer's pupils Heifetz and Zilstein, by Joachim's successor at the Berlin Hochschule, Henri Marteau, and his successor Adolf Busch, by two Massart pupils, Ysaye and Ondricek; by Kreisler and his fellow-pupil in Vienna, Franz Kneisel; by Jan Kubelik and by Tovey. It is fascinating to see how ali these have reacted to the work, some closely basing their cadenza on thematic cells in the concerto (Heifetz and Heermann, for example), some (Auer, Milstein, Kubelik) more intent on virtuoso display, some (Ondricek, Marteau, Tovey) moving away from Brahmsian style, harmonic thinking or key progressions. Many employ techniques of tremolo accompaniment below a melodic line and of multiple-stopping (both for chords and for part-writing), but the most complex textures of all are to be found in Ysaye and Kreisler. I can imagine a lot of people having wonderful fun programming the various alternatives into the main movement; but I do hope that in so doing sight is not lost of Brahms's masterpiece, to which these are, after all, purely ornamental.'

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