Glazunov; Prokofiev Violin Concertos

nikolaj znaider and mariss jansons form a distinguished partnership full of flair and illumination

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Glazunov; Prokofiev Violin Concertos

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Souvenir d'un lieu cher, No. 1, Méditation in D minor

Like Rob Cowan‚ I was very much taken with Nikolaj Znaider’s début coupling of Nielsen and Bruch (EMI‚ 4/01); this follow­up release from RCA strikes me as even more impressive.
Znaider’s confident‚ abundantly characterful account of the Prokofiev is‚ on balance‚ the finest I’ve heard since Vadim Repin’s similarly stimulating 1995 version with Nagano and the Hallé. More than the admirable Repin‚ however‚ Znaider brings an extra lyrical ardour and tender intimacy to Prokofiev’s soaring melodies (try the start of the slow movement)‚ not to mention a greater rhythmic swagger in the finale. What really lifts this newcomer to special heights is the chamber­like rapport and sinewy concentration Znaider generates with Mariss Jansons and the excellent Bavarian Radio SO‚ whose playing is an model of scrupulous observation and profound musicality. Time and again‚ these intelligent artists had me gasping anew at the giddy beauty and wondrous fantasy of Prokofiev’s stunningly inventive inspiration (with its frequent echoes of Romeo and Juliet)‚ and theirs is a strongly communicative performance which grips from first measure to last.
The Glazunov receives a reading notable for its refreshing thoughtfulness and unforced‚ ‘old world’ charm. By the side of the dazzlingly slick Vengerov‚ Znaider emerges as an altogether more personable and imaginative story­teller‚ yet there’s heaps of panache and twinkling affection when needed (the festive finale goes with a swing and a smile)‚ and his playing has none of the slight technical shortcomings that take the shine off Shaham’s less distinctive but otherwise enjoyable account with Pletnev. The disc concludes with a generously songful account of the ‘Méditation’ from Souvenir d’un lieu cher‚ though‚ given the comparatively short total timing‚ it’s perhaps a pity that we weren’t given the two other miniatures which make up Tchaikovsky’s Op 42 (Glazunov in fact orchestrated all three).
My only other niggle concerns the slightly up­front solo balance‚ which imparts a certain nasal wiriness to Znaider’s tone in the upper reaches (and a few sniffs and audible intakes of breath may bother some listeners more than they did me). Otherwise‚ a very positive recommendation‚ and I look forward to hearing more from this outstanding fiddler.

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