BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; WIENIAWSKI: Violin Concerto
No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22; SCHUMANN: Violin Concerto in D Minor –
Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Cleveland Orchestra (Tchaikovsky;
Wieniawski)/ Christoph von Dohnanyi conducts Cleveland Orchestra
(Brahms; Schumann) – Decca B0004204-02 58:39; 68:00 (Distrib.
Edition, given his relative youth and the currency of his 1988 Tchaikovsky
and Wieniawski and 1996 Brahms and Schumann readings, there we have it.
Bell, who sports a supremely sweet tone in the manner of Kreisler, plays
the large concertos with intelligence and affection, and his intonation is
exact. The Schumann and the Wieniawski concertos are the sleepers in this
collation, with Ashkenazy’s taking the uncut version of the orchestral
score in the latter, so the scale of the piece gains, where the Heifetz
version eviscerated all but the virtuoso’s part. The Schumann Concerto –
championed by Kulenkampff, Menuhin, and Szeryng – is a baroque exercise in
singularity of affect, since all of the musical material derives from one
cloth in spite of an attempt to make a third-movement polonaise out of
its gloomy character.
that the Cleveland Orchestra can project when it is wound tight by virtuoso conductors. The Brahms has a bit more warmth than
the Tchaikovsky, and Bell supplies his own cadenza for the first movement.
The motoric power of the Brahms comes through more in the style of
Milstein, so the interplay of violin, flute, and French horn in the middle
of the development section is an episode to cultivate. Bell’s cadenza has
moments of Bach partita spliced into the threads of the Allegro’s figures,
then its rolling arpeggios and double stops borrow from Mendelssohn before
we return to the plaintive woodwind and horn accompaniment for the coda.
Both the Wieniawski and the Brahms benefit from enthusiastic, gypsy-style
filigree, played with muscularity and conviction.