Beethoven: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Mozart:  Violin Concerto No. 4; Silver:  Creepin' In.  Nigel Kennedy, violin; Polish Chamber Orchestra.  EMI 0946 3 95373 2.

Following on the heels of DG's fine release of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with violinist Vadim Repin, Riccardo Muti, and the Vienna Philharmonic came this EMI issue with Nigel Kennedy playing the violin and leading the Polish Chamber Orchestra.  Both discs are recommendable in their own way.

Whereas the Repin performance is rather big-boned and old-fashioned, the Kennedy interpretation is somewhat leaner and marginally more dynamic.  I can't say which reading I enjoyed more.  Kennedy is the more extreme, as we might expect from this often flamboyant source.  He takes the first movement very quickly, infusing it with a good deal of energy and enthusiasm.  I recall that he recorded the Beethoven once before, in the early Nineties, and it had a rather slack first movement.  No such thing here.  However, as a complete contrast, he takes the second movement Larghetto more slowly than I can ever remember it done.  His manner is not exactly languid, though, and many listeners will find it lovely.  Be that as it may, it's hard to find any reservations about the final movement, which is as joyous and bouncy as any you'll hear.

As companion pieces, Kennedy chose Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto, which he does up in fine form, the booklet notes telling us that Kennedy performs the cadenzas in "jazz and other non-classical styles...which nevertheless keep the composer's own material very much in mind."  They do no harm.  Then, in an eccentric twist that probably only Kennedy could get away with, he ends the program with a brief jazz piece, "Creepin' In," for violin and double bass by Horace Silver.

Because Kennedy conducts a relatively small ensemble, it helps to improve transparency, yet at the same time EMI's sonics maintain a warm, ambient glow around the music.  It is traditionally good EMI sound, pleasantly atmospheric, without the bloom interfering too much with inner detailing.

Incidentally, I don't usually trust albums where the performer's name on the cover shows up larger than the composer's, and in this instance Kennedy has his name in capital letters and practically in lights.  I'll make an exception.

JJP

1 comment:

  1. This made me get out my copy of the CD and listen to it again, which was a very nice thing to do, since I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is.............I've been listening to something else which is very nice , in fact it's a very nice album. Thank you for posting this ! Making an exception for Nigel always pays good dividends !

    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 more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine 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.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
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.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa