MENDELSSOHN: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor, MWVo3; Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, MWVo4 – Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin/ Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano/ Slovak National Symphony Orchestra/ Theodore Kuchar – Brilliant Classics 95733, 66:13 (11/1/19) [Distr. by Naxos] ****
The precocious, youthful Mendelssohn (1809-1847) receives his due in this pair of enthusiastic collaborations (rec. 15-19 November 2017) of his two violin concertos, composed 1822 and 1823. The Concerto in D minor had enjoyed a revival through the efforts of Yehudi Menuhin, who owned the manuscript and instituted recordings for both RCA and EMI in the 1950s. The hybrid style of the work embraces both Baroque and Classical models, mostly in the Gallic style that no less embraces the bravura we know from Viotti. The last movement Allegro in bravura gypsy style delighted many critics of the time, themselves initiates to the charms of this good natured and inventive experiment from a gifted teenager. The last movement, Allegro molto, of the “double” concerto, too, enjoys a tumultuous, gypsy flavor. The writing for the string orchestra evinces the same level of independent confidence that the composer had refined in his string symphonies of the same period.
These works reveal a host of musical influences, among them that of Mendelssohn’s teacher Eduard Rietz, and the melodic contours of Franz Schubert. The D minor Violin Concerto conforms to the Mozart model in three movements; but, after the opening expository materials, the solo herself introduces the lyrical, second subject. The agitated nature of the risoluto theme might suggest the stormy music in Gluck’s Orfeo. The heavy-footed main theme finds constant repetition, while over it solo Ivakhiv weaves any number of ariosi, each more exalted and emotionally impetus than the last. Mendelssohn obviously relies on Mozart’s formulas, but he speaks in his own, ardent voice. The slow, expansive movement, Andante, exposes us to a real composer of song at a tender age. The solo has a brief cadenza moment prior to her rejoining the strings for a spun-out, beautiful lyric in audacious modulations. Later, a second cadenza has a moment before it leans into the tremolando string accompaniment. Attacca, the gypsy finale thrusts forward in a bravura style that bears a hint of Paganini. Ivakhiv has been awaiting this movement’s cadenza, which carries both bite and suave panache
The Concerto for Violin and Piano of 1823 projects a larger, more ambitious canvas. Once more, former influences might point to Haydn, Vanhal, and Hummel. The militant character of the opening Allegro has elements of Mozart and later strategies of the composer himself. The brilliant piano has the first thematic gambit, soon joined by the violin, and both will find their gifts exploited individually as well as in concert. The violin often projects a lovely aria over resonant piano arpeggios. When the musical affect becomes scherzando, the playful joie de vivre of the ensemble deliciously recommends itself to us. The structure of the tutti and solo passages easily suggests Paganini as a model. The orchestra occasionally breaks off, and we have an inflamed sonata foe violin and piano. In the second movement Adagio, Mendelssohn becomes so enamored of this effect almost to forget the orchestra entirely. The last movement Allegro molto easily suggests the later Capriccio and Rondo brilliante of the composer’s burgeoning maturity. The keyboard writing loves rocket figures while the violin basks in high, skipping tessitura. The Slavic main theme has its foil in the “typical” Mendelssohn melodic curve. To hear the evolution of a gifted composer’s style has been the real delight in this aurally audacious combination of concertos, splendidly captured by the recording team of Jaroslav Stransvsky and Da-Hong Seetoo.