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

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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