Notes and Editorial Reviews
op. 11, “in the Hungarian Style”
Suyoen Kim (vn); Michael Halász, cond; Staatskapelle Weimar
NAXOS 8.570991 (65:57)
From a position of near-obscurity in the early 1960s (at least in so far as recordings went), Joseph Joachim’s Hungarian Concerto received a lift-off from Charles Treger’s early complete recording with the Louisville
Orchestra (Louisville LS 705) and from Aaron’s Rosand’s more brilliant but cut-down version on a Vox LP, reissued many times; while Takako Nishizaki recorded Joachim’s Third Concerto for Marco Polo (now available on Naxos 8.554733).
That leaves the First Concerto, a one-movement affair lasting about 20 minutes from the early 1850s, when Joachim had hardly reached or passed the age of 20. Already the work displays a certain individuality: Joachim integrated the violin’s first entry into the opening tutti, after which initial statement the orchestra continues on its own. The solo part offered its youthful composer a great number of opportunities for virtuoso display, but the Concerto’s high symphonic seriousness sets it apart from more display-oriented vehicles written for their own use by his contemporaries Ernst and Wieniawski. In its harmonic and melodic style, so heavily tinged with nostalgia, the work resembles the first (or only) movements of Bruch’s later works (such as his Allegro appassionato and, especially, his Third Concerto). Suyoen Kim, producing a slender but pure tone in all registers (but with a steelier core on the G-string) from a 1742 Camillus Camilli, nevertheless projects the mix of pyrotechnical excitement and poignant lyricism the score demands. Joachim exerted a strong influence on the history of violin playing through his students, who included personalities as diverse as Jenö Hubay, Bronislaw Huberman, and Leopold Auer (who, having studied with him for two years, claimed that Joachim had opened his eyes). If the Concerto seems to wander, that’s neither Kim’s fault nor Halász’s.
The Second Concerto, “in the Hungarian style” has been described as the most difficult of concerted works for the violin (although certainly not for the listener); it requires strength and stamina as well as sustained brilliance, demanding a very occasional sacrifice of tonal beauty to achieve the requisite tonal strength. Kim demonstrates a rock-solid technique and the same compound of brilliance and warmth she displayed in the composer’s First Concerto, while the Halász and the Orchestra find both imposing rhetoric and human warmth in the orchestral part (as in the First Concerto, the engineers have balanced the solo and orchestra parts, creating a striking profile for the former against the highly detailed backdrop of the latter). Both soloist and orchestra emphasize the Concerto’s overt ethnicity (an element perhaps most obviously missing from alternative recordings by Treger, Rosand, Elmar Oliveira (Masters 27, 15:3), Rachel Barton Pine (Cedille 90000 068, 26:6), and Christian Tetzlaff (Virgin 502109, 31:6), all of whose readings nevertheless realized a great deal of the Concerto’s potential—except for Treger’s, which fell somewhat short of the work’s technical demands, and, in any case, isn’t any longer available. But Kim’s brilliant while offering a structurally synoptic view of this prolix Concerto (just over 45 minutes in this performance), brings an occasional poignancy that relieves the dramatic tension in the first movement—compared to Tetzlaff and Dausgaard’s thrustingly craggy symphonic reading of that movement, she and Halász take by comparison a more relaxed, expansive view (skirting the danger in such a long-winded movement, that offers no extra time to pause and smell the flowers). And after a long respite in the slow movement, a passage hardly bereft of difficulties and violinistic posturing, she opens the finale with an energetic flash that rivals Rosand’s and surpasses it in Hungarian verve.
For an imposing reading of the Hungarian Concerto, Kim’s and Halász’s could hardly be beat, and the program offers the relative novelty of the First Concerto, both in stunning performances. Strongly recommended to all kinds of listeners.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 3 in G major by Joseph Joachim
Suyoen Kim (Violin)
Length: 20 Minutes 18 Secs.
Violin Concerto in one movement in G minor, Op. 3
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 11, "in ungarischer Weise" (In the Hungarian Style): I. Allegro un poco maestoso
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 11, "in ungarischer Weise" (In the Hungarian Style): II. Romanze: Andante - Allegretto
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 11, "in ungarischer Weise" (In the Hungarian Style): III. Finale alla Zingara: Allegro con spirito
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