BRUCH Violin Concerto No 1 LALO Symphonie espagnole
Renaud Capuçon – that silky smooth French violinist – has just turned 40, and this celebratory disc is a good way of announcing it. The pieces, combining Mediterranean flavours with Max Bruch, may seem a strange pick‘n’mix, but they mean a lot to Capuçon, who was 12 when he first tackled them. More importantly, though, they spotlight one of his defining characteristics.
Namely, elegance. There are no rough edges in this take on Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, nothing that smacks of hard labour. Instead we have a performance full of charm and mischief that emphasises the work’s optimism: the last movement, in particular, is strikingly light on its feet. And while other recent performances have sounded more overtly Spanish, for example Nikito Boriso-Glebsky’s, Capuçon certainly doesn’t lack flamboyance.
But he also has serious things to say. The third movement has plenty of grandeur; and there is depth in the dreamy Scherzando. This violinist is not one for heavy-handed statements; for that you can turn to Alexandre da Costa’s frustratingly slow recording of the piece (Warner Classics, 6/13). Nevertheless, Capuçon, together with the Orchestre de Paris under Paavo Järvi, does a good job of reminding us that Symphonie espagnole is far more than froth.
That seriousness of purpose also marks Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, which Capuçon and Järvi treat as much more than a filler piece. But a little more depth would have paid off in parts of Bruch’s First Concerto. At times, during the second movement, Capuçon is too much the smooth operator, airbrushing out some humanising qualities. So while you couldn’t ask for a more seductive tone or a more graceful way with phrasing, there’s little of the vulnerability that distinguishes Jack Liebeck’s recent recording or the heart-on-sleeve passion of Vadim Gluzman’s. As a whole, though, this Bruch is compelling, not least because it’s so full of life. The first movement seems to pour out in one heady breath. The last is full of punch and swagger. On the CD’s back cover, French critic André Tubeuf insists that turning 40 ‘gives you wings’. Capuçon, evidently, is reaping the benefits.