BRUCH Violin Concerto
She did great things with Bruch’s first two violin concertos. Now Antje Weithaas, in her determination to complete the set, has turned her attention to the Third. It’s rather an anti-climax, given that that this rarely heard concerto, for all that Bruch already had two under his belt when he wrote it, doesn’t match up to its predecessors, in terms of both depth and tunes. Still, in between the bombastic orchestral accompaniments and the canned melodies – so simple, yet forgettable – the piece boasts moments of real poignancy, particularly when handled as sensitively as this.
Indeed, Weithaas would probably find poetry in the least likely of corners. This satin-toned German solo and chamber violinist, best known in the UK as the leader of the Arcanto Quartet, has a knack of eking out every nuance, resulting in a performance every bit as colourful as Jack Liebeck’s 2014 recording. She relishes the muscular punch of the opening movement and the introspection of the second – if anything her interpretation is even more poignant than Liebeck’s. She enjoys the moments of sentimentality, without over-egging the pudding. And, most strikingly, she does so with no hint of mannerism or self-regard.
It’s an approach that pays dividends in the Konzertstück, whose second movement, based on an Irish folk melody, evokes the songful innocence of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. Yet there’s no mistaking Weithaas’s virtuosity: in her crisp articulation, her pristine intonation and the lightness of touch she brings to the disc’s last work, the Op 42 Romanze. It is here, in music better described as playful than romantic, that she sounds at her most alive. If only the NDR Radio Philharmonic, under Hermann Bäumer’s solid, stolid directorship, could manage to sound equally inspired.