To begin, there's the matter of this Tchaikovsky album's title, "Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra." It sounds pretty impressive and should cover a wide range of pieces, possibly a box set. The fact is, though, Tchaikovsky wrote only three works for violin and orchestra and a fourth orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. So a single disc contains seventy-four minutes of music. Fortunately, my second point more than makes up for any possible overstatement in the title: American violinist Jennifer Koh, Alexander Vedernikov, and the Odense Symphony do a fine job executing these works, and the Cedille engineers do their usual splendid job recording them. While it may not be an earthshaking release, the album makes for a rewarding listening experience.
The Cedille team have arranged the pieces in chronological order on the disc, but I'll start with the most-popular among them first, the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, written by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in 1878. He wrote it just after the dissolution of a calamitous marriage and while carrying on a relationship with his pupil, violinist Iosif Kotek. The composer even wanted to dedicate the piece to Kotek but felt such a measure would put an undue strain on public gossip. In any case, the premiere took place in 1881, and what we consider one of the mainstays of the classical repertoire these days met with a mixed reaction at the time.
The other works on the disc appeared to me more immediately pleasing: the little Serenade melancolique, Op. 26, and Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34; and the longer, three-movement Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42, the one orchestrated by Glazunov. Here, Ms. Koh's melding of overt Romanticism with effortless efficiency seemed well and appropriately executed. The Serenade is tender and affectionate without being too weepy; the Valse-Scherzo is ideal for showing off Ms. Koh's virtuosic brilliance; and the Souvenir is poignant, rhapsodic, wistful, and pointed by turns, with an especially frolicsome central scherzo.
Producer Judith Sherman and session engineer Viggo Mangor, along with post-production engineer Bill Maylone and editing assistant Jeanne Velonis, recorded the music at the Odense Concert House's Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark in September 2015.
The sound is about as near perfect as it can be in these works, with excellent tonal balance, instrumental balance, orchestral depth, clarity, and definition. What's more, the engineers have positioned the violin ideally in relation to the other instruments and captured it in a most-natural manner, never bright, forward, or steely. With good dynamics and frequency range, the recording is probably the best we currently have for this music, so if you're just looking for sound, this might be a good choice.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: