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Korngold, Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos / Laurent Korcia

Tchaikovsky / Korngold / Korcia / Kantorow
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 5280  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyErich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Laurent Korcia
Conductor:  Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Liège Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KORNGOLD Violin Concerto. TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto Laurent Korcia (vn); Jean-Jacques Kantorow, cond; Liège Royal PO NAÏVE V 5280 (57:26)

Violinist Laurent Korcia’s reading of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto reveals in the first movement a great deal of tonal detail, which Korcia puts under the microscope by means of a variety of attacks (some of them almost startling), punctuating a mellifluously sweet tone captured Read more vividly although not particularly far to the foreground by Naïve’s engineers, by means of crisp rhythmic sprightliness that enlivens the passagework, as well as by means of portamentos that highlight the work’s opulent lyricism. The first movement sounds above all rhapsodic and cinematic, as it should. Korcia studied with Michèle Auclair, but, as I remember her playing, she didn’t sound anything like this. Violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow, as conductor, and the orchestra spread an atmospheric mist at the beginning of the slow movement, over which the violin ruminates. After this beginning (and a sumptuous performance of the first movement), Korcia deploys some very noisy, and almost dirty, shifts that many will find out of keeping with the performance’s general ambiance, although the figuration at the center sounds liquid and graceful, and the cantabile remains ingratiating throughout, winding down in this reading to a breathless conclusion. Korcia and Kantorow create high spirits in the finale, ending with a burst of earthy (though not earthbound) energy. If the reading lacks Jascha Heifetz’s drive, it partly makes up for it in warmth, although it’s hard to imagine the older violinist’s vitality quite exorcised by appealing qualities in performances as suave as Anne-Sophie Mutter’s (Deutsche Grammophon B0003562, Fanfare 28:5), or as opulent as Nicolaj Znaider’s (RCA Red Seal 88697 10336, Fanfare 32:6), or as achingly lyrical as Pavel ?porcl on Supraphon 3962, Fanfare 33:4—or as individual as that by Korcia himself, not to mention the staying power of older contenders like Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, or Vera Tsu, whose recordings have been in the ring a long time without quite being knocked out.

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, which serves as the discmate to Korngold’s, receives a similarly personal reading from Korcia, right from the introduction (where many violinists have left their calling cards), but also in the first theme. If listeners pay as close attention to Korcia as to the music’s development, that’s perhaps the strongest proof that he displays a personality individual enough to capture the spotlight occasionally from the composer (and isn’t that just what many late, lamented Golden Age violinists did, for better or for worse?). Still, nothing seems eccentric (as Leopold Auer’s or Fritz Kreisler’s rewriting did here and there), and even Korcia’s sharply honed technical command doesn’t sound self-conscious in the cadenza. The slow movement similarly serves to illuminate Korcia’s expressive personality, though he plays with an even greater economy of means. It would be hard to find a greater accommodation of the music to a violinist’s persona even in recordings by Heifetz and David Oistrakh, who both adopted the concerto and left their signatures on it. Korcia’s reading of the finale, although largely sharp as a razor, still gives him the opportunity to deploy one of the down-and-dirty portamentos that cropped up in his performance of Korngold’s concerto and that could antagonize listeners with the most traditional sensibilities. Still, Kantorow and the orchestra cooperate in making the slow episode a poignantly memorable experience.

If one younger violinist after another seems to approach the technical command of the older violinists, one younger violinist after another also seems to fall short of the personality that made new recordings by those earlier so eagerly anticipated. Laurent Korcia seems to possess that kind of individuality, and those who listen to his readings of Korngold’s and Tchaikovsky’s concertos should be able to recognize it whatever he might be playing. Those who denigrate that kind of integration of work and performer may be displeased, but those who revere those older violinists and can sit enthralled through performances by Heifetz, Kreisler, Milstein, Francescatti, or even Elman, should at least enjoy these. Recommended with special urgency.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Laurent Korcia (Violin)
Conductor:  Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Liège Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Laurent Korcia (Violin)
Conductor:  Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Liège Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 

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