MAX BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 3 in D minor; Scottish Fantasy – Jack Liebeck, violin/ BBC Scottish Sym. Orch./ Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion
EMIL MŁYNARSKI: Violin Concerti No. 1 in D minor, Op. 11 & No. 2 in D major, Op. 16; ALEKSANDER ZARZYCKI: Introduction et Cracovienne in D major; Mazurka in G major – Eugene Ugorski, v. / BBC Scottish Sym. Orch. / Michal Dworzyński – Hyperion

MAX BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 58; Scottish Fantasy in E flat major, Op. 46 – Jack Liebeck, violin/ BBC Scottish Sym. Orch./ Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion CDA68050, 69:35 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] *****:

EMIL MŁYNARSKI: Violin Concerti No. 1 in D minor, Op. 11 & No. 2 in D major, Op. 16; ALEKSANDER ZARZYCKI: Introduction et Cracovienne in D major, Op. 15; Mazurka in G major, Op. 26 – Eugene Ugorski, v. / BBC Scottish Sym. Orch. / Michal Dworzyński – Hyperion CDA67990, 64:52 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] *****:

Max Bruch (1838-1920) wrote two very popular works for violin and orchestra: the Scottish Fantasy (considered here) and his Violin Concerto No. 1, among other works largely forgotten and unheard in today’s concert halls. The Scottish Fantasy was championed by Jascha Heifitz in the last century and is one of those works filled with toe-tapping Scottish folk melodies. According to Bruch, it is not a concerto, because it uses folk melodies and the form of the composition is free (and in five movements).

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 3, like most of his other works, has been neglected. In some ways, this concerto is more sophisticated than his other two concertos. It does not have the kind of lyrical passages that make Bruch’s other works so immediately appealing. Nonetheless, it does have merit.

Violinist Jack Liebeck is strong and convincing in both of these works. He possesses the technique and sensitivity to persuade the listener that these two works are better than they really are. Conductor Martyn Brabbins has a special insight into romantic music. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Brabbins’ baton provides Liebeck with perceptive and compelling accompaniment.  The sound is remarkably clear and natural thanks to Simon Eadon (engineer) and Andrew Keener (recording producer).

The Bruch disk is Volume 17 in Hyperion’s series “The Romantic Violin Concerto.” The Młynarski/ Zarzycki disk is Volume 15 in the same series.

You may wonder who these two composers, considered Polish, were. Emil Młynarski (1870-1935) was born in Lithuania and Aleksander Zarzycki (1834-1895) was born in the Ukraine. Both had abundant musical gifts. Młynarski’s two violin concertos are certainly at the same level of inspiration and accomplishment as Max Bruch’s first two violin concertos. The British violinist Kennedy has taken up the second Młynarski concerto (EMI/Warner). But here are both concertos, plus the short items by Zarzycki.

Młynarski entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory at the age of ten. Leopold Auer was his violin teacher. He studied composition under Anatol Liadov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov taught him orchestration. Młynarski toured as a violinist, then took up conducting which occupied a lot of his time, so that composition was sidelined.

His first Violin Concerto (1897) is modeled on similar works by Mendelssohn, Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski. Initially successful, the concerto remained unplayed until 2011. The second Violin Concerto (1916), composed in the key of the concertos of Beethoven and Brahms, utilizes folk-song material and employs extended rhapsodic elements. It has been in the repertory of Polish violinists since its first performance in 1920.

Zarzycki ‘s Introduction et Cracovienne in D Major is written in the form of a krakowiak (a fast Polish dance from the Krakow region), brooding, then animated. The Mazurka in G major is another virtuoso piece.

The works and composers may be unfamiliar, but the performances and sonics are totally excellent. Russian violinist Eugene Ugorski tackles these works with technical brilliance and vivaciousness. Conductor Dworzynski and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra provide superlative support. The sound is first-rate. The inserts are in English, French and German.

—Zan Furtwangler

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