Notes and Editorial Reviews
In his autobiography, Joseph Szigeti wrote of his youthful admiration of Karl Goldmark’s Violin Concerto (not then enumerated as No. 1), which he, even at the time of writing, considered lushly effective. Although sometimes piquantly eccentric in his opinions, Szigeti in this case seems not to have followed the common progression from finding the work entertaining to disdaining it as bland. In earlier reviews, I’ve recounted dismaying experiences with pianists who deprecated Goldmark’s sliding chromatic bass lines. But it’s hard to remain unaffected by the soaring lyricism of many of the first movement’s winding subsidiary themes, the ardent simplicity of the Air, or the last movement’s adrenaline-laced cadenza...Benjamin Schmid projects
the Concerto’s nostalgic Gemütlichkeit with a technique adequate to its considerable technical demands (his flashing passagework in the last movement’s coda generates almost as much excitement as does Milstein’s) but with an expressive palette, despite the tonal beauty—intermittently marred by roughness—of the 1731 Stradivari on which he plays, with considerably less range or subtlety than necessary to bring this work to life. Compared to his comparative low-flying cantabile in the first movement and the modest climax to which he builds the agitated middle section of the Air, the cuts he makes in the last movement’s cadenza seem hardly as serious a problem. Daniel Raiskin and the orchestra respond to the first movement’s urgent opening theme; and the soloist’s occasional momentary disappearance in the slow movement may be more the fault of the engineers than of the soloist or accompaniment (the recorded sound, in both Goldmark’s and Brahms’s concertos, generally seems both warmly spacious and clearly defined). Iosif Raiskin’s notes suggest that Brahms intended to write a genuine concerto, rather than a symphony, for violin and cello. Schmid and cellist Ramon Jaffé play with chamber-like sensitivity and intimacy—appropriate, perhaps, to the concerto grosso concept in which the work originated, but even Brahms himself didn’t follow his idea to its logical conclusion by scaling back the orchestra, leaving a Baroque-size concertino to contend with a gargantuan ripieno. Raiskin has made a gallant attempt to integrate these disparate elements, combining them while paying his respects to both large and small; and the soloists enter humbly into the less ostentatiously virtuosic roles Brahms assigned them (the notes point out that Joachim had, at one point, hoped that Brahms would consider a more soloistic violin part). This performance may not displace monumental ones like Francescatti and Fournier’s, but it’s satisfying in its own right.
Goldmark’s Violin Concerto remains hard for violinists to characterize adequately in the shadow of Milstein’s benchmark reading, which still dominates the field; but Schmid’s recording isn’t substantially less convincing than others, and with the addition of the penetrating performance of Brahms’s Double Concerto and the benefit of revealing engineering, the program deserves a general recommendation.
Robert Maxham, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 28 by Karl Goldmark
Benjamin Schmid (Violin)
Witold Lutoslawski Philharmonic
Written: by 1877; Austria
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