DISCS / Double Play:: Sounding old before their years: Edward Seckerson and Stephen Johnson compare notes on new releases of Mendelssohn, Bruch and Goldschmidt

MENDELSSOHN AND BRUCH: Violin Concertos

Maxim Vengerov, Leipzig Gewandhaus / Kurt Masur

(Teldec 4509-90875-2)

MAXIM Vengerov's potency is in the sound he makes. His tone is so intense, so true, so rich in good vibrations that almost anything else is a bonus. The instrument may smoulder, but the music never overheats. Young virtuosi like this have little in common with the old breed of Russian carnivore. Just listen to the way he places the opening recitatives of the Bruch: the poise, the restraint, the sound taken so poetically away. Likewise his wonderfully imagined withdrawal in the closing moments of the slow movement. And it's the modesty of his Mendelssohn one remembers, the easy flow of the Andante with nothing to prove and everything to enjoy, the fragrant melody airborne, the scent not too heavy. Kurt Masur and his venerable Leipzig orchestra create a warm and welcoming environment for their soloist. A hackneyed coupling, but it doesn't come much fresher. ES

THE picture on the cover suggests a combination of the young Ruggiero Ricci and Rasputin, and musically the impression is not that dissimilar. Vengerov is a powerful, at times almost mesmerising, presence - and the Teldec recording makes sure we don't miss a note; but he's also intensely musical. He may be a big player with a tremendous technical and tonal range, but he never goes for cheap thrills. You can make the finale of the Mendelssohn into a dazzling, headlong perpetuum mobile if you like, but Vengerov achieves energy and brilliance without whipping up the speed - it's the clarity of articulation and strength of character that make the impact.

As for lyricism - well, this is perhaps Vengerov's strongest side. His deep-toned, singing legato made Bruch's Adagio a new experience for me - pre-echoes of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'I don't know how to love him' purged at last. It's remarkable to find a young violinist who can balance strength of line with an ear for tiny expressive details - and do it with such conviction.

But it isn't entirely Vengerov's show. Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus are near-ideal partners. The orchestral outburst that leads into Bruch's Adagio is hair-raising, all the more so after Vengerov's impassioned cadenza. It doesn't matter how often you've heard these works; just try arguing that familiarity breeds contempt in the face of playing like this.

GOLDSCHMIDT: Der gewaltige Hahnrei; Mediterranean Songs

Soloists, Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus / Lothar Zagrosek

(Decca 440 850-2; two CDs)

THE Nazis may have driven Berthold Goldschmidt's first opera to ground, but they couldn't bury it. Too good. It was bound to come back fighting sooner or later. Much later, as it turns out. There's no mistaking the period. It's very much a product of the 1920s, music on the knife-edge of burlesque, terse, sardonic, but shot through with a crimson streak of romanticism. The language is tonal, but with an edge, a serrated edge. You'll almost certainly hear stylistic kinships: Weill, Hindemith, Shostakovich in the obsessiveness of the percussion writing (bony xylophone predominant) and the strident, carousing woodwinds. But it's a distinctive young voice (not yet 30), one that knows its own mind and worth.

A confident dramatist, too, a skilled manipulator of narrative tension and release: the climactic chorus of Act 2, the ugly, collective voice of derision, is like the lid coming off a pressure-cooker. And Goldschmidt really nails the terrible irony of this grotesque fable - a tale of obsessive jealousy to make even Othello seem well-adjusted. Madness is always but a whisper away from normality. Music of heartbreak and compassion is repeatedly violated, tender moments destabilised. Roberta Alexander's Stella is the impassioned voice of hope springing eternal, and I've never heard her better. But then this entire cast have found their way right inside Goldschmidt's sinuous vocal lines - a credit to their fit. He doesn't toy with words - he fills them. And if you're still in any doubt, the accompanying Mediterranean Songs - operatic in scale and gesture (handsomely served by John Mark Ainsley) - should put you right. ES

THERE's nothing 'magnificent' about the cuckold in Berthold Goldschmidt's first opera - in fact it's hard to find redeeming features in any of these characters. As Bruno and Stella sing their first love duet, text and music make it plain that the slide into psychosis is already under way. Beside this claustrophobic tale of paranoia and infantile jealousy, Lulu is sane, invigorating - salutary even.

And yet Goldschmidt's score holds the attention - makes you care what happens next. Echoes of others are audible - Weill, Mahler, the early Hindemith, and one or two foretastes of the Shostakovich of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - but there's a distinctive musical personality here, with a sure feel for drama and the ability to pack an emotional punch.

The performance does it justice. Perhaps the strings get a little frayed in some of Goldschmidt's most testingly high writing, and perhaps Robert Worle's Bruno sounds a little careful at times, but on the whole the dramatic and musical focus is very impressive, and there's Roberta Alexander's Stella, bringing warmth to an otherwise nightmare-inclined experience. The Mediterranean Songs are quite a relief after this - the sun holds sway this time, and John Mark Ainsley sings very persuasively. Decca's Entartete Musik series has promised well for some time, but this is the real thing at last.

Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss