Beethoven & Clement: Violin Concertos (CD Review)


Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Jose Serebrier, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Cedille CDR 900000 106. 2-Disc Set.

In the accompanying booklet note, violinist Rachel Barton Pine thanks various people for making this recording possible, but she forgets the one person who may have contributed most to its success: Cedille recording engineer Bill Maylone. Although these are lovely interpretations prepared with utmost care, it is the recording quality that sets the performances apart from the competition (in the Beethoven, anyway). The sound is warm, ambient, spacious, yet wonderfully detailed, with a wide stereo spread, a realistically balanced soloist, and about as good a sense of orchestral depth as I've heard in a while. Thank you, Mr. Maylone.

Here's the thing: Everybody knows the Beethoven Violin Concerto, but who's this Clement guy? Well, it turns out that when Beethoven wrote his Concerto in 1806, it was probably Clement who inspired him. Clement had premiered his own Concerto in 1805, with Beethoven in attendance. When Beethoven premiered his violin concerto a year later, he inscribed it to Clement and even asked Clement to perform the inaugural reading. The funny thing is, according to the booklet note, some critics at the time compared Beethoven's Concerto unfavorably to Clement's of the year before, saying that in Beethoven's work "the continuity often seems to be completely disrupted, and the endless repetitions of a few commonplace passages could easily lead to weariness." The Beethoven Concerto went on to become one of the mainstays of the classical repertoire, and the Clement Concerto died in obscurity. Again, the note explains that it hasn't been played publicly in two hundred years, and this Cedille disc represents its first recording!

The similarities between the Clement and the Beethoven Concertos are striking, besides their both being in D Major. Both begin with long, massive opening movements, which are nevertheless filled with affection and geniality, in which the soloist doesn't enter until after a lengthy introductory passage; the slow middle movements are serene and contemplative; and both works close with Rondos of high-spirited charm.

Ms. Pine plays both pieces with an expressive glow, never showboating with pyrotechnical wizardly but rather taking a leisurely approach in all but the final movements. So, you won't find as much excitement here as with a number of other violinists, but you will discover some other sublime pleasures, interpretively and sonically. The two-disc set is a delight.

JJP

1 comment:

  1. The similarities between the Clement and the Beethoven Concertos are striking. KEEP POSTING

    ReplyDelete

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.