First to arrive was a CD called ‘Equal’ (7/16), the focus there being Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and now we have ‘Op 2’ (not, you’ll note, the designated opus number for the pieces programmed), a selection of works that are close to Sebastian Bohren’s heart. There’s one incontestable masterpiece, the Concerto funebre for violin and strings by a German composer who withdrew into internal exile for the duration of the Second World War, beyond which he refashioned a number of his major works. Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s wonderful concerto opens by quoting the ‘Hussite Song’ that Smetana uses in Má vlast and Dvořák in the Hussites Overture. Allusions to Wagner haunt the second movement, whereas the violent third anticipates the world of Shostakovich’s Seventh and Eighth Quartets, and the work concludes with slow chorale. Concerto funebre has not been short of fine recordings, André Gertler and Thomas Zehetmair having produced two of the best, but Bohren’s comprehensive rendition homes in on every varied nuance that Hartmann calls for, from ethereal quiet playing among the instrument’s upper reaches to a swingeing attack of the bow elsewhere.
Mendelssohn’s teenage D minor Concerto was pioneered in modern times by Yehudi Menuhin, who recorded it memorably, and again Bohren offers a keenly communicative, virtuoso account with seamless passagework, especially in the first movement. If you’re expecting premonitions of the great E minor Concerto, be warned, there aren’t many, but it’s a pleasing and precocious piece, much along the lines of the string symphonies. The other Bohren favourites are Respighi’s Third Ancient Airs and Dances Suite, a melange of 16th- and 17th-century movements skilfully arranged, and Schubert’s A major Rondo, D438, where Bohren affects a winning lilt in the main rondo theme. Phrase shaping is always musical and the playing of the CHAARTS Chamber Artists is highly accomplished throughout. Excellent sound, too.
On a slightly different note, maybe someone could come along with an ‘Op 111’ CD – opus-led this time, ie Beethoven, Reger, Brahms and Dvořák, for starters, all marvellous pieces.