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.


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 !


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