NIELSEN Violin Concerto (Lisa Jacobs)
Lisa Jacobs plays with firm tone and admirable technical control in these live performances, and I’m particularly taken with the dark sound she draws from the low register of her 1683 Rugieri. Her intonation is generally fine, despite an odd chord near the very beginning of the Nielsen (at 0'13"), and some slightly sketchy passagework elsewhere in the concerto.
Jacobs can be fiery – listen, say, to the way she turns the screws at 3'15" in the Praeludium – but occasionally lets her phrasing go slack. Mikhail Agrest may be to blame here, as his conducting is stodgy and bland. Where’s the cheek in those chirping woodwinds at 8'58" in the Allegro cavalleresco, for example? And, more crucially, where’s the humour and playfulness in the final Rondo? There are some odd transitions and rhythmically tricky passages in this finale, too, and they’re all rather awkwardly handled. The most successful of the work’s four parts by far is the Poco adagio. Jacobs’s entrance is quietly arresting, and she guides us through the twisting melodic path with expressive assurance, even if Agrest doesn’t always get the Bremen players to play softly enough.
I have nothing but praise, however, for the two substantial and captivating encores. The Svendsen is positively mesmeric, with Jacobs tapping into a vein of underlying passion without losing any sweetness to her tone. There’s little audience noise throughout, other than extended applause at the end of the Nielsen. Die Glocke, Bremen’s art deco concert hall, is widely admired for its excellent acoustic but little orchestral detail comes through here, though the soloist is well caught.