BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in e – Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/ John Eliot Gardiner – Decca Blu-ray

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in e, Op. 64 – Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/ John Eliot Gardiner – Decca 00289 478 5012 Pure Audio Blu-ray (PCM 2.0, DTS-MA HD 2.0, Dolby TrueHD, 24-bit/96K), 68:17 [Distr. by Universal] (4/25/14) ****:

I am referring everyone who reads these new DGG Blu-ray Pure Audio reviews to my review of the Kleiber/Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7 reissue for comments and details on this series in general.  This disc is another that was released in surround sound on SACD in 2003, so it now seems that the present release is a bit superfluous (except for the fact that the SACD price has sky-rocketed due to scarcity), and I can’t imagine anyone who has the standard CD benefitting all that much from this two-channel Blu-ray issue.

The recording itself was fairly well-received, Gardiner and Mullova going back to the sources and applying some “original” revisions in the Beethoven that don’t make a whole lot of difference generally, and which you have to listen for. I find the Beethoven, though a fine reading, to be somewhat lackluster and a bit too clinical, though Gardiner’s ORR as usual adds a lot of pep. There is also no indication as to whether Mullova is going full-frontal period violin or not—I suspect no, though as I have said before, the more advanced the period playing the less it tends to sound “period” anymore. The reading is good but not great, and there are many out there that fit that latter category.

Mendelssohn makes an altogether different impression; though I still prefer Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg’s amazingly prolific and exciting performance, this one is close. Mullova finds just the right amount of sparkle alternating with truly rich romantic feeling in the slow movement, and the whole makes for a superbly satisfying reading. Gardiner supports but doesn’t drown her out, and the results are collaborative music making at its very best.

—Steven Ritter

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