R. STRAUSS: Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 8; KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 – Pavel Šporcl, violin/ Prague Symphony Orchestra/ Jíŕí Kout – Supraphon

by | Feb 26, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

R. STRAUSS:  Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 8; KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 – Pavel Šporcl, violin/ Prague Symphony Orchestra/ Jíŕí Kout – Supraphon SU 3962-2, 56:65 [Distr. by Qualiton] ***1/2:

Both Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) are arguably two of the foremost masters of orchestration from the 20th century. Strauss, for example, has under his belt an illustrative list of tone poems including Don Juan, Ein Heldenleben and Eine Alpensinfonie; while the child prodigy Korngold has secured a musical reputation largely from his film scores, his opera Die Tote Stadt and incidental works that include the Much Ado About Nothing after Shakespeare’s famous play. Although both composers have written profusely for the orchestra at large, their contribution for the solo violin was largely limited. Both composers had written only a single Violin Sonata, and appropriately, a single Violin Concerto. In this Supraphon recording listeners will have the opportunity to sample this lesser known side of the two composers via this latter genre.

Captured live two years ago from the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House in Prague from June 24th (Strauss) and October 8-9th (Korngold), the soloist is Pavel Šporcl. A product of the young generation of Czech violinists, Šporcl has collaborated with such noted conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazy and Jiří Bělohlávek, and has been hailed as “a violinist for the 21st century.” In his reading of the Strauss Violin Concerto, one hears a sparkling interpretation that combines youthful dimensions with underlying symphonic gestures. Although this work was written from 1880-1882 by a young Richard Strauss, the solo lines from Šporcl demonstrated a romantic connotation both in scope and dimension that one could easily trace to Strauss’ more mature compositions written in decades to follow. Particularly, in the second Lento movement, Šporcl took flight with his instrument like the vocal melody of a singer, where poetry is at the core of a lyrical cantilena. Then, in the final Rondo-Presto movement, Šproul combined both finesse and vitality in his reading that was in large part complimented by the melodious accompaniment of Jíŕí Kout and the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

In the Korngold Violin Concerto, which initially was intended for Bronislaw Huberman but was eventually premièred by Jascha Heifetz, the slow movement Romance placed Šproul under the spotlight. Hear how Šproul had the ability to use his instrument to deliver just the right intonation and shaping of musical lines to bring forth the imagery of a dreamy reverie. Šproul’s tone may not have the thick-rich quality as his colleagues Hilary Hahn or Philippe Quint in the same work, but he displayed a steady tone in this lyrical movement where the score demanded. In the Allegro finale, Šproul played around the set of variations with ease and flexibility, coupled with an exquisite control of dynamics. The final bars took the audience by a storm.

This Supraphon album made a very interesting disclaimer in this recording on the particular violin and the violin bow being showcased by the violinist. It is a “blue violin that was built to order by the Czech violin-maker Jan Špidlen in 2005,” and the “bow was made in 2008 in the workshop of Petr Auředník.”

— Patrick P.L. Lam