TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto DVOŘÁK Romance
I’m frankly astonished by how seldom performers adhere to the letter of Tchaikovsky’s score to his Violin Concerto, as if the composer’s markings were mere suggestions. So I was heartened to read Benjamin Schmid’s booklet note, explaining some finer points of his interpretation: how in the finale, for example, he (rightly) differentiates between the meno mosso at 1'44" and the subsequent molto meno mosso at 2'29", and how he plays that same movement’s introductory cadenza in tempo, giving the impression the violinist ‘has not yet noticed that the orchestra has left him alone’.
Yet with such thought and care given to these details, I found it particularly frustrating that Schmid and his colleagues ignored many others. In the first movement, say, why not respect the poco più lento marking four bars after the più mosso at 5'12", as Christian Tetzlaff does so convincingly? And why does Tibor Bogányi push the tempo forwards at the beginning of the development section, rather than returning to Moderato assai, as printed? Vladimir Ashkenazy (with both James Ehnes and Esther Yoo) demonstrates how pulling back here creates a sense of Onegin-like pomp and opulence that’s more memorable than a simple adrenalin rush.
Still, this is an attractive account overall. Schmid conveys an overarching sense of continuity and flow without sacrificing spontaneity. His wiry, tensile tone occasionally splinters into scratchiness – as in that aforementioned più mosso passage at 5'12" – although surprisingly not in the breakneck pace of the finale, where he’s thrillingly agile and articulate, sometimes leaving the Pécs-based Pannon Philharmonic scrambling to keep up. His veiled tone is lovely in the darkly coloured Canzonetta, even if the pacing is not quite as fluid as Tchaikovsky’s Andante marking suggests. Dvořák’s nocturnal Romance is similarly atmospheric, if also a bit too relaxed, and rather an ungenerous coupling.