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.


1 comment:

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first 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 use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa