KORNGOLD Violin Concerto. Violin Sonata
Whenever a new recording of the Violin Concerto by Korngold comes up for review, and they’ve been coming thick and fast recently, the original one recorded in 1953 with Jascha Heifetz as soloist continues to draw applause. Here we have another serious challenger in this live recording
by Kristóf Baráti from Eindhoven’s Muziekgebouw, coupled with a studio performance from the Budapest Music Centre of Korngold’s early Violin Sonata.
Baráti shapes the Violin Concerto’s phrases with the same poise as Heifetz but expresses more subtleties of tone colour and emotional inflections, being more engaged in the yearning second subject of the finale where Heifetz is simpler. Detail is everything. The lovely opening is delicately coloured by Baráti with a little rit on that first semiquaver figure, and a single bar on the violas marked piano espressivo with a diminishing hairpin is shaded to a fine degree by the conductor Otto Tausk. Baráti captures the fiery and yet mercurial character of the first movement’s cadenza with some dazzling playing. The Romance that follows is as seductive an account as any, with the noctural passage from soloist and orchestra from fig 47 truly misterioso. The helter-skelter finale, deftly dispatched, is greeted enthusiastically by the audience though listeners at home should be alert to a momentary crackle on the right-hand side of the orchestra at 4'45" in. Korngold wrote that his Concerto was contemplated for a Caruso of the violin rather than a Paganini, adding that he was fortunate that the two were rolled into one in Heifetz, an encomium we can now bestow on Baráti.
The early Violin Sonata runs twice the length of the concerto and on first hearing seems a protracted and strenuous affair. However, the pianist Gábor Farkas never falters in dispatching the fearsome multiple chords abounding in all four movements and the duo make light of Korngold’s dense textures, with the measured endings to the outer movements finely drawn. The balance between them is exemplary.