GLAZUNOV. SIBELIUS Violin Concertos
Only 22 this year, and two or three years younger than that when these recordings were made, the American violinist Esther Yoo offers an impressive debut disc that will certainly sustain and possibly enhance interest in her career. Already well seasoned as a concert artist, she has all the technique and temperament one would expect of a competition finalist (fourth prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2012), and she has chosen well – or been well advised – in her pairing of an established warhorse with an attractive Sibelian rarity, and with the Glazunov Concerto, which is not exactly neglected but certainly under-appreciated.
She brings great affection and even, perhaps, a touch of crusading zeal to the Glazunov, relishing its melting second theme and using her bright tone to good effect in the more energetic passages. Perhaps that tone is, at present, a little uniformly projected, the vibrato a little uniformly tight. That impression is certainly heightened by comparison with Nikolaj Znaider, whose Glazunov is far more colourful, touching and rhapsodic. In the Sibelius Concerto, too, Yoo does not as yet have the experience to relax her grip and explore darker recesses before returning to the fray with newly acquired wisdom.
For that kind of quality, it’s a case of going back to the great masters. Not that starry names guaranteed top quality – Vengerov, for example, gives an overheated, self-conscious account of the Sibelius (Apex, 9/96). Even when it comes to Sibelius’s Suite – a little treasure from his last years of composition that only resurfaced after his death – Yoo is less inside the music than, say, Dong-Suk Kang (in BIS’s Sibelius Edition, where the piece is also better documented). The Grand Adagio from Glazunov’s Raymonda is a welcome bonbon from a violinist whose future development should be well worth watching but for whom exposure on a label as prestigious as DG feels a little premature.