KORNGOLD; MOZART Violin Concertos (Caroline Goulding)
Has any popular violin concerto had a shakier start in life than Korngold’s? Born into a post-war America where critics (if not audiences) were newly allergic to romanticism, it also had the mixed blessing of a premiere recording by Heifetz: glorious in its way, but hugely influential and the basis of a performance tradition that hasn’t always served the music well. Enjoyable though it can be to hear this bittersweet song of exile performed with mile-wide vibrato and Beverly Hills lushness, it isn’t – or shouldn’t be – the only way.
Caroline Goulding and Kevin John Edusei follow the recent, Gramophone Award-winning path of Vilde Frang, among others: toning down the technicolour and emphasising the music’s Viennese roots. Goulding, a laureate of the Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad has a fine, sweet but penetrating tone. She shapes phrases expressively but never overdoes the (fairly generous) rubato that Korngold has already written into the score; Edusei and his Berne orchestra respond alertly. It helps that Goulding isn’t over-miked (often a temptation in this concerto): she’s realistically placed against an almost Impressionist orchestral soundscape, in which the harps and tuned percussion seem at times almost to melt into the texture. While the finale certainly sparkles, the result, overall, feels like a real conversation.
Mozart’s ‘Turkish’ Concerto makes an appropriate pairing – two Austrian wunderkinds together – and Edusei lays down big, bright tuttis (the horns are positively swashbuckling) against which Goulding sings and dances with nonchalant grace, and peacocks magnificently in the first movement’s (unattributed) cadenza. It’s very different in outlook and sound world from Isabelle Faust’s recent approach to Mozart (Harmonia Mundi, 12/16) – but in this pairing it should give a lot of pleasure on its own splendidly assured terms.