The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 8 = VIEUXTEMPS: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 37; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31; Fantasia appassionata in G Minor, Op. 35 – Viviane Hagner, violin/Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion

by | May 9, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 8 = VIEUXTEMPS: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 37; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31; Fantasia appassionata in G Minor, Op. 35 – Viviane Hagner, violin/Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion CDA67798, 66:40 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:


It was Jascha Heifetz who first brought our attention to the refined beauty of the A Minor Concerto (1859) of Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps, an essentially one-movement work that subdivides into three sections, the second of which, Adagio, adapts an affecting  melody from Gretry’s opera Lucille. Munich-born virtuoso Viviane Hagner (rec. 8-10 July 2009) brings a splendid sense of the romantic style to this work, playing a 1717 Sasserno Stradivarius of sweetly brilliant tone. The performance becomes quite fiery and flamboyant, Hagner’s trills and runs striking a wonderful balance between poetry–in the C Major second subject–and ensuing fireworks. The extended cadenza employs double stops and polyphony to advance the themes of the first movement, soon to modulate into the Adagio and Allegro con fuoco finale, a relatively effusive coda than any sort of independent movement, but tailor made for the high-minded virtuosity Hagner projects, much in the Heifetz mold.

The Violin Concerto No. 4 (1847)–championed by both Francescatti and Menuhin–was composed while Vieuxtemps was court violinist in St. Petersburg, Russia. The scale of the piece suggests a symphonie concertante in the manner of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy. The orchestra delays the entry of the solo violin, first establishing a hazy Andante that rather echoes the chorale mystique of Spohr’s Song-Scene Concerto in A Minor. Hagner’s entry has all of the solemnity of the opening of the Bruch G Minor Concerto, the violin moving between arioso and recitativo passages. When the virtuosic material dominates, Hagner must perform double, triple, and quadruple stops in order to bring off the tumultuous cadenza. Attacca to the Adagio religioso, another chorale statement with sweetly nostalgic tendencies. Some passionate indulgence soon reverts to lyrical outpouring, Hagner in concert with the harp, a model for Bruch’s later Scottish Fantasy. The Scherzo in D Minor (and D Major trio) provides a natural showpiece in duple rhythm, rife with swooping figures and drone and hunting-horn effects in the bucolic trio.

The last movement, a rather pompous affair, is marked Finale marziale, the solo singing in high registers and any number of bravura flourishes. Those who recall the Francescatti collaboration with Ormandy on CBS (ML 5184) will wonder why no enterprising reissue acolyte has revived that classic to match this equally incendiary realization by Hagner and Brabbins.

The Fantasia appassionata–so many of these pieces find resonance in Bruch’s catalogue–was composed in 1860. In a single movement, Vieuxtemps unleashes a cascade of pyrotechnical prowess in an amalgam of styles that demands declamatory and virtuosic execution from the ardent soloist, often in imitation of Paganini’s lyrico-flamboyant style. The Moderato section modulates to an arioso G Major in a ballade that evolves in variation form. The Largo offers harmonies close to Tristan Act II, the violin indulging in rhapsodic, avid gypsified musings. The last four minutes treat us to a spirited Saltarella, that lively rhythm of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, here a case of  “kitchen-sink” music, wherein every conceivable bravura device confronts the undaunted Ms. Hagner. Did Taneyev know this piece well enough to base his Op. 28 Concert Fantasy last movement on its whirling-dervish figures?  You be the judge. This Volume 8 of “The Romantic Violin Concerto” series is a keeper.

–Gary Lemco

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