BRITTEN Violin Concerto
Britten’s masterly Violin Concerto really seems to have come into its own in recent years. I first made its acquaintance through Ida Haendel’s blisteringly intense 1977 EMI recording with Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth SO (one of the undisputed concerto classics of the late analogue era), since when it has deservedly attracted a whole host of formidable champions, among them Lorraine MacAslan (Naxos), Daniel Hope (Warner), Janine Jansen (Decca), Frank Peter Zimmermann (Sony) and, most recently, Tasmin Little (Chandos). I’m not sure I’d quite bracket this newcomer in the same class, though it still has plenty going for it. Matthew Trusler surmounts the solo part’s fearsome technical demands with no little panache and plays with considerable purity of tone and touching sincerity; Seikyo Kim and the Flanders SO, too, prove eminently stylish and alert partners. However, the performance as a whole, while scrupulously prepared, lucid and thoroughly musical, doesn’t quite evince the abundant character, sparky temperament and sheer emotional clout that make, say, the Haendel/Berglund collaboration such a durable, deeply nourishing document.
The orchestra’s new music director, Jan Latham-Koenig, takes over for the Four Sea Interludes. I detect a greater expressive charge here, the music’s powerfully minatory undertow making its presence felt in (especially) ‘Dawn’ and ‘Storm’ (which Latham-Koenig drives hard to notably exciting effect). The auditorium applauds warmly, though it’s a pity room couldn’t have been found for a little more music – the magnificently moody Passacaglia that Britten extracted from the opera for the concert hall immediately springs to mind. As it stands, I’m not sure this enjoyable pairing can compete in a crowded marketplace.