PAGANINI; WOLF-FERRARI Violin Concertos
DG has a good track record with Paganini’s First Violin Concerto: five different recordings by different artists currently available on the label, which, considering the current paucity of public performances, is remarkable. The best known of these – and for many Paganini lovers still the benchmark – is Salvatore Accardo’s first recording with the LSO and Charles Dutoit.
This newcomer, good as it is and with plenty to recommend it, does not displace Accardo. The photogenic Francesca Dego (the booklet goes to some lengths to show just how photogenic) clearly knows her compatriot’s recording, even if her slow movement is nearly a minute faster (a decision that beneficially intensifies its operatic narrative). She plays the score without any cuts, has the full measure of Paganini’s myriad technical challenges and uses Accardo’s version of the Sauret first-movement cadenza, executed with great brilliance and aplomb. The one thing she does not do is send a tingle up the spine in the way that the 18-year-old Menuhin/Monteux, Vengerov/Mehta and Accardo/Dutoit do.
What might very well sway you is the imaginative coupling. If you like Bruch’s violin concertos, there’s every probability that you will like Wolf-Ferrari’s, a late work without any hint of its being written in 1944. If the concerto’s themes are not quite as strong as Bruch’s, Dego’s sweet-toned advocacy shows the work in the best possible light. This is a live performance (attentively conducted, again, by Daniele Rustioni, who happens to be Dego’s husband), which compares favourably with that of the concerto’s dedicatee, Guila Bustabo, with Rudolf Kempe in 1972.
As for the booklet, I don’t know which is worse: the original material or the translation (DG has a track record for this, too). Three examples just from the last paragraph: a violin has a fingerboard (not a keyboard), we use the English spelling of ‘Stravinsky’ (not ‘Stravinkij’), and what on earth is ‘hyperkinetic charm’?