BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op.77; Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op.102 – Vadim Repin, violin/Truls Mørk, cello/  Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/ Riccardo Chailly – Deutsche Grammophon 477 7470, 71:30 **** [Distr. by Universal]:
 
This pairing of the two most popular string concertos of Johannes Brahms will be a mandatory purchase for admirers of both Vadim Repin and Truls Mørk. Particularly for the violin buffs who prefer fiery intensity and polished elegance in their Brahms, this will meet your needs like bread and butter.

For a composition of such apocryphal scale as the Brahms Violin Concerto, it is often a challenge to leave a lasting impression with audience, let alone for the performers themselves, who often carries this Concerto in their suitcases flying from one occasion to the next. However, for Vadim Repin, Brahms is one of the composers he holds with special affinity, and the Violin Concerto is one he fiddles regularly in concerts and masterclasses from Lucerne to Seattle, each time with a fresh offering. The compositions of Brahms are “musical nourishments” to Repin, much like Beethoven was for Kreisler. Whether it is a performance of the Brahms’ chamber works or here in the two Concertos, the spell of Brahms’ music inspires Repin in such a way unlike most composers he encounters. This recording exposes this very fine quality to those who follow his career closely. Unlike for some violinists where the Brahms Violin Concerto can often turn out to be routine run-throughs (even on recordings), nothing in Repin’s Brahms is routine compared to his past performances.

In this present performance with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig under Riccardo Chailly’s direction, the musical friends rejoined in a partnership to this work that began more than a decade ago:

"The last time I performed the Brahms Violin Concerto with Vadim was almost ten years ago on a North American tour with the Concertgebouw Orchestra … since then, he [Repin] has performed it with other conductors and I have conducted it with other soloists. We have now met up again to rediscover the piece together."

Their Brahms heard in this album is a shot through with commitment. If you are the type of listener who insists on perfection and has little patience with the triumph of spirit over matter, you may not be enthralled by the violinist’s occasional blandness, as heard in the Adagio movement. But such considerations are trumped by the vigorous drama Repin milks from every note. There is an outsized personality at work here, and it is thrilling to hear this work performed by Repin even if it is the nth time this piece runs through your veins. Chailly and the Gewandhaus musicians match the soloist’s playing with loving commitment in the Adagio and passion in the outer movements. Repin’s full-blown mastery on the instrument is heard in the third movement Allegro, where one can witness plenty of Grand Romantic violinism here – full of the rubatos as well as musical jest that sound decidedly old-fashioned to modern ears. Rhythms are emphatic and melodies are stated with portamento-peppered expressive freedom that ends fully with dashing bravura.

The Double Concerto for violin and cello offers a nice resolution to the former Violin Concerto, perhaps with slightly less intensity on both parts of the soloists. While both Repin and cellist Truls Mørk’s elegant cello playing bring a fittingly romantic touch to Brahms’ final orchestral composition, they feel a touch conservative compared to the provocative reading of Kremer/Maisky/Bernstein (DGG 1982) that some of us have grown up with. Granted, it is at times both wistful and joyous, complementing the energy that the Violin Concerto brought out very well in the previous 40 minutes, but with the Double Concerto, melancholy was the overlying theme. In the outer movements, Chailly brings symphonic rigour and high drama to Brahms´ orchestral scores. It is hard to think of recent recordings of these great works that match the splendour of sound and musical insight here. An overall welcoming second release from the Russian violinist.

— Patrick P.L. Lam