Brahms/Sibelius Violin Concertos

Author: 
Robert Layton

BRAHMS, SIBELIUS Violin Concertos – Neveu

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

The Sibelius Concerto was recorded in November 1945 and the Brahms nine months later. When the former appeared there was no other version, save for the pioneering Heifetz/Beecham account, available only as part of a Boult Sibelius Society volume with Night ride and sunrise and The oceanides. (Anja Ignatius's wartime set made in Berlin under the baton of Sibelius's son-in-law, Armas Jarnefelt was never issued here.) Neveu's recording was hailed the following January by Alec Robertson in glowing terms, ''round the head of Neveu is not a gentle halo, but a flame of fire''. As he said, this is ''without any doubt, a great performance—a performance so incandescent that at the end I felt like bursting into flames myself!''. Although I have known the Sibelius in its various incarnations, I was never on such close terms with the Brahms. W. R. Anderson wrote of it with less enthusiasm, speaking of ''a powerful rather than a subtle performance from the orchestra'' and noting that ''the soloist has remarkable power, skill and a good deal of feeling'' (my italics) which seems to me to do less than justice to this reading! If ever there was a performance highly charged with feeling, this is it, though emotion is tempered by fine musical discipline and no mean degree of spirituality. Apart from the panache and brilliance, there is a wonderful sense of freedom and space here; and there is momentum but no sense of the bar-line.
The recordings were made by Walter Legge and Arthur Clarke, and thanks to the expertise of Keith Hardwick, relatively few allowances have to be made for the passage of four decades. When you remember that a concert ticket or a book in post-war Britain cost a few shillings and now invariably costs more than a few pounds, it is a salutary thought that these two great performances—in greatly improved sound—have not even doubled their original price. I recommend this with all possible enthusiasm.'

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