BERIOT: Violin Concertos 2, op. 32; 4, op. 46; 7, op. 73 – Laurent Albrecht Breuninger, violin/ Northwest German Philharmonic/ Frank Beerman, conductor – CPO

by | May 24, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BERIOT: Violin Concertos 2, op. 32; 4, op. 46; 7, op. 73 – Laurent Albrecht Breuninger, violin/ Northwest German Philharmonic/ Frank Beerman, conductor – CPO 777 167-2, 64:29 ***:

Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870) was one of those virtuosos, who in the established custom of the time, was expected to provided compositions of his own making for public consumption as a display vehicle for his skills. His lifetime coincides almost exactly with the period of the great romantic artists, and audiences flocked to concerts not to hear symphonies or overtures, but their favorite singers and instrumentalists. It was not uncommon for a concert to open with an overture, and have a symphony with its movements broken up to provide rest time for the soloists until their next number. Bériot, a Belgian of French artistic proclivities, enjoyed tremendous success all of his life until overtaken by blindness (even that did not stop him), and was said to be unequalled by all save Paganini.

Hearing this disc makes me inclined to pronounce him a far better composer than his Italian rival; for while Paganini has a few great “hits” among his collection, much of his music is parlor bound and rather insipid. Bériot speaks with a greater breadth and long-windedness, and while his music cannot be considered “symphonic” as such in the traditional manner of theme and development, his melodies are often quite lovely and affecting, and his violin writing—difficult to be sure—sounds as if it fits the instrument more naturally, though not being a violinist this is only a speculation. Of his 150 odd works, very few did not involve the instrument, so it is safe to say that this composer was self-serving in the best sense, leaving a body of work with some notable gems, yet always looking out for number one whenever he moved into composition mode. This is definitely not art-for-art’s sake, but taken on its own terms can be quite pleasing.

I found that a whole disc of this wore on me a little as time progressed, and I can only fault the composer, or perhaps my being out of his time period has warped my own sensibilities. I cannot fault any of the players here; M. Breuninger is really tuned into this music and plays it like it means a lot to him, though I do detect a few passages where he seems to be straining for effect (living up to Bériot is a tough task). The orchestra is a marvel—who knew this sort of playing was going on in East Westphalia-Lippe? They must be a happy populace indeed to be served up this quality week after week. Excellent and comprehensive notes, and very fine sound make this a release that, while perhaps not for the general listener, will more than delight those interested in the virtuoso antics of the period.

— Steven Ritter
 

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