Myaskovsky; Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos
I’ve always thought of Vadim Repin as among the most gifted of younger Russian-born violinists, even on the evidence of his earliest recordings (those for Erato). His first Tchaikovsky Concerto, for example, was notable for its tender, even tremulous tone, its sensitive phrasing and apt sentiment. Very occasionally one sensed that the subtler mechanics of Repin’s technique needed fine tuning, but listening to this remake under Valery Gergiev confirms just how far Repin has journeyed in a mere few years. Tone projection is stronger (admittedly the new recording accentuates the fact), attack more aggressive and Repin’s solo demeanour seems better focused than before, far more confident and spontaneous.
Mixed in with these ‘improvements’ are one or two affectations, nothing too drastic but the sort that tend to work better in concert than on disc. Take the beginning of the finale, with its pregnant hesitations and splayed pizzicati. Fun? Yes. Durable? Possibly not. But it’s a cracking performance, one of the best from the younger generation, and dynamically accompanied under Gergiev, although the recording sounds like a digital update of the sort of blowsy in-your-face sonics typical of the first stereo recordings of the late 1950s.
But it’s the coupling that really makes the disc a ‘must-have’. Myaskovsky’s Violin Concerto was written in just a few months during 1938 and premièred by David Oistrakh in Leningrad early in 1939. As with Tchaikovsky’s Concerto, the opening tutti plays for less than a minute and the slow movement is touchingly lyrical. The rather melancholy first movement is built on a grand scale and includes an expansive cadenza where Repin’s mastery is virtually the equal of Oistrakh’s (in one of his earliest recordings). It’s forceful music, epic in scale and earnestly argued, the sort of piece that Gergiev thrives on. Again, the up-front recording makes a powerful impact. If Repin’s subsequent records for Philips – and I hope there will be more – are as good as this one, we’ll have plenty to look forward to.