BRUCH Violin Concerto No 2
There’s much to admire in Jack Liebeck’s patrician account of Bruch’s D minor Violin Concerto. His playing is virtually flawless in its technical ease, scintillating articulateness and purity of tone – very much, in fact, like James Ehnes’s dazzling CBC recording. Liebeck is most impressive in the concerto’s introspective passages: the plaintive opening, for example, and also in the first movement’s coda, where he finds a touching vulnerability. Like Ehnes, though, he’s more than a touch too sober. Heifetz, in his benchmark version from 1954 (RCA, 6/56), invested the music with an intensity that made up for any lack of tenderness. Liebeck’s restraint is not quite as convincing. Take the way he sails through the finale’s lovely, lyrical second theme without relaxing the tempo at all, for instance. Ulf Wallin is a more forceful advocate, and I think this music requires that kind of extra love and care.
Wallin’s disc also includes the elegiac, proto-Elgarian In memoriam and the odd, two-movement Konzertstück (essentially a concerto sans finale). Again, I prefer the BIS recording in the former work, but Wallin weighs down the Konzertstück, presumably in an attempt to compensate for the lopsided structure. Liebeck’s lighter touch can’t overcome the fact that the score is unsatisfying – that’s Bruch’s fault – but his sensitive attention to detail makes it sublimely pleasurable. Listen, for instance, to the ravishing, quiet sincerity of his playing at the beginning of the second movement. Missing from Wallin’s disc is the Adagio appassionato, a sombre showpiece composed for Joseph Joachim. Liebeck’s finespun performance could use more appassionato but is affecting in its noble restraint.
Martyn Brabbins is entirely in sync with Liebeck, interpretatively, and elicits lustrous playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Certainly, in terms of recorded sound, this Hyperion disc is the best ever lavished on Bruch’s unjustly neglected Second Concerto.