FERDINAND DAVID: Violin Concerto No. 4 in E Major, Op. 23; Violin Concerto No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 35; Andante and Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 16 – Hagai Shaham, violin/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion

by | Oct 16, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

FERDINAND DAVID: Violin Concerto No. 4 in E Major, Op. 23; Violin Concerto No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 35; Andante and Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 16 – Hagai Shaham, violin/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion CDA67804, 59:35 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

The name of Ferdinand David (1810-1873), Hamburg violin virtuoso and pedagogue, remains inevitably linked to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 1845, playing his 1742 Guarneri instrument. Often compared to Louis Spohr in his own lifetime, David did not value sheer pyrotechnics highly, though his concertos certainly utilize the full capacities of the instrument. We can hear something of the influence of Paganini and, of course, Mendelssohn, and the occasional martial cast that might be attributable to both Beethoven and Berlioz.

The E Major Concerto strikes us as eminently lyrical and unpretentiously virtuosic, with a first movement C Major counter-melody, dolce e espressivo, that quite charms. The martial progressions seem derivative of the Paganini style, heraldic and florid by turns. The tuttis exploit a big sound by way of trumpets and drums, swelling to a lyrical plateau so that the solo can enter with variants on the opening tune as a kind of second development section. Soloist Hagai Shaham delivers (rec. 9-10 December 2009) a fastidious and vivacious sympathy to the flow of figures, a real acolyte of an otherwise marginal repertory. The first movement coda is all silky luster and brilliant ornament.

Like Mendelssohn, David possesses a natural fluency for hymn-tunes, and his C Major Adagio cantabile reveals a capacity for color and orchestral texture quite alluring, the violas and chromatic accompanying strings equally engaged. We sojourn to A Minor (appassionato) for an emotional aria; then viola polyphony in A Major takes us to Shaham’s quadruple stops in C for a grand effect. The final Allegretto grazioso applies lessons from Mendelssohn and Paganini in the form of a sonata-rondo of flamboyant swagger. A kind of bravura tarantella emerges which features a substantial tympani part, the violin solo often anticipating the later indulgences of Sarasate.

The Violin Concerto No. 5 in d Minor expands the orchestration to include trombones. The opening Allegro serioso relates to the dark Sturm und Drang sensibility, vibrant, chromatic, and agitated in a manner reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. The violin enters with a plaintive aria that counters the ongoing drama in the orchestra. The violin’s dolce element lightens the atmosphere, the intertwining of the woodwinds often presaging the later Wieniawski style, in lyrically bravura variants. The largamente coda warrants the price of admission. The more “tripping” aspects of the writing point to operetta or the influence of Carl Maria von Weber. A lovely horn solo announces the G Major Adagio, another soaring, even weepy, cantilena from this under-rated composer. David segues directly into his most flagrant imitation of Mendelssohn’s fairy-music, with a scintillating Vivace sonata-rondo that adumbrates the more effulgent moments in Bruch.  Brabbins has his own hands full to keep up with Shaham, the figures bounding, leaping, and scurrying in all parts.

The very title, Andante and Scherzo capriccioso (1843), suggests Saint-Saens, and this piece indeed admits its “French” precedent in the Berlioz Reverie et Caprice, Op. 8. David opens in a moody D Major into which the violin treads in dotted notes. Decorative, melodic sweetness reigns for well upon three minutes, when the D Minor Scherzo erupts, tarantella fashion, with playful energies, Shaham’s alternating arco and pizzicato in demonic accents. Amid pungent chords from the orchestra, the violin enters with a second subject of serenade character, but it soon ripples with light Mediterranean filigree. Is this David’s answer to Mendelssohn’s famed saltarello from the Italian Symphony? The blockbuster ending resounds boldly, and Shaham has many times sung like Mischa Elman reborn.

–Gary Lemco


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