BUSONI Violin Concerto STRAUSS Violin Concerto
Busoni’s Violin Concerto (1896 97), despite the success of the Second Sonata that shortly followed it, has never enjoyed much popularity, either in the concert hall or on disc. While it is an early work, not wholly representative of the mature composer, it is beautifully crafted, full of lyricism and appealing melodies. True, the ideas perhaps lack the distinctive memorability of those in the Second Sonata or the great Piano Concerto of a few years later (as well as the latter’s heavenly length) but the Violin Concerto is nevertheless a work that leaves one the better for having heard it, especially in such a splendidly rendered performance as this from Tanja Becker-Bender, superbly accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the excellent Garry Walker.
Frank Peter Zimmermann set the bar for modern recordings in his Editor’s Choice Sony disc but Becker-Bender’s is its equal. She plays with a same sweet tone, sureness intonation and complete understanding of Busoni’s music, and I would be hard-put to choose one over the other as first choice. Couplings will be the deciding factor: those wanting an all-Busoni programme can safely rest with Zimmermann, who chose the Second Sonata; those who like their concertos and chamber music separate may prefer Becker-Bender, especially as she includes the premiere recording of the Beethoven-Busoni Benedictus from the Missa solemnis.
Becker-Bender’s main coupling is the even earlier, youthful D minor Concerto (1881 82) by this year’s sesquicentennialist, Richard Strauss. She plays it for all its worth though cannot disguise the longueurs of the opening, overlong Allegro (though she does it make it palatable). Her accounts of the Lento ma non troppo and concluding Prestissimo are winning. An excellent disc.