replay

Robert Cowan reviews two of the latest reissues Beethoven: Violin Concerto Schumann: Violin Concerto Gidon Kremer, Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Live recordings: 1992-1994) (Teldec 0630- 10015-2)
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The Independent Culture
Listening to Gidon Kremer and Nikolaus Harnoncourt brave Schumann's painfully expressive Violin Concerto makes you realise why Joseph Joachim (owner of the manuscript) banned its performance until 100 years after the composer's death. Long rumoured to be a pathological symptom of artistic decline, the concerto lay incarcerated until Georg Kulenkampff pipped Yehudi Menuhin to the post for the 1937 world premiere.

It's a peach of a piece: fragile, insistent, pleadingly lyrical (the slow movement probes deeper than anything in the Piano Concerto) and with an uncompromised integrity that further intensifies the pathos. What's more, this particular reading faces the music head-on by observing Schumann's controversially slow metronome markings: the finale now becomes a stately polonaise, clocking up a full three minutes more than, say, Henryk Szeryng (on Mercury). Kremer's lean, sinewy playing explores the music's every aching modulation, while the Beethoven coupling - a fascinating, if rather stylised, affair - cocks a snook at convention by including an ingenious arrangement of the extended cadenza that Beethoven originally composed for his piano-concerto transcription. The effect is startling, particularly when, beyond the familiar linking tutti, Kremer steps aside and pianist Vadim Sacharov bounds in with what sounds like a cross between Beethoven and Mrs Mills. It's rather a case of "Goodbye, Olympus, and Hello, The Rose and Crown".

Artur Rodzinki: Artist Profile Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras (Recorded: 1957-58) (EMI 5 68742 2; two discs)

He was hired by Stokowski to guest-conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1920s; he licked the Cleveland into shape prior to Szell's arrival, prepared the NBC Symphony for Toscanini, steered a stormy passage at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, was dismissed from the Chicago Symphony over "programming disputes", and died in Boston, aged 67.

Artur Rodzinski was an old-world martinet with a fabulous ear and a substantial repertoire. His discography is larger than most people realise (a whole host of American Westminster recordings awaits reissue) and here he shines for a short-lived Indian summer, coaxing Beecham's Royal Philharmonic in seductive accounts of Falla's Three-Cornered Hat suites (such piquant woodwind solos), a brutally assertive "Ritual Fire Dance" and a trio of touristy soundscapes by Albeniz. Glinka's Ruslan overture features sharply incisive strings, there's a regal Russian Easter Festival (with a glittering tintinnabulation at its close) and a red-blooded account of Tchaikovsky's Romeo. Strauss reigns resplendent with a Golden-Age Philharmonia: dances from Salome (no steam, but plenty of fire) and Couperin (the tinselly Dance Suite), and then a meaningful Death and Transfiguration, its snoring contrabassoon as clear as crystal, its final peroration like a bear-hug from the beyond.

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