Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto for Violin and Oboe in D Minor,
Violin Concertos: No. 2 in E; No. 1 in a. Double Violin Concerto in d
Rut Ingólfsdóttir (vn); Daoi Kolbeinsson (ob);
Unnur Maria Ingólfsdóttir (vn); Reykjavík CO
SMEKKLEYSA 15 (62: 06)
It’s clear from the beginning of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for
Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060a, played in D Minor rather than the C Minor in which it’s often heard, that the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra, though numbering only 11 players, produces a mass of sound suggesting larger forces, perhaps because the venue in which the ensemble recorded the program in 2003 seems so reverberant. The playing itself sounds concise and fresh, with the soloists folded into the ensemble rather than shoved far forward. Daoi Kolbeinsson proves a sweet-toned, rather than a raucous, oboe soloist (notably in the slow movement, but throughout the rest of the concerto as well); and Rut Ingólfsdóttir draws a consistently pure tone from her violin, while the lower strings offer resonant support. In the first movement of the Second Violin Concerto, in E Major, Ingólfsdóttir plays energetically; and, as in the double concerto that precedes this one on the program, the recorded sound generally merges her solo lines, warm and rich (especially in the lower registers), whenever they modestly emerge, into the ensemble. She makes an especially lyrical case for the slow movement, which perhaps needs no special pleading but receives it anyway in her performance. Ingólfsdóttir and the ensemble adopt a brisk tempo that energizes the finale. The ensemble bustles—almost bristles—with high spirits in the first movement of the A-Minor Concerto. Ingólfsdóttir brings the same soaring lyricism to the slow movement that elevated her reading of the parallel movement in the Second Concerto; and her gusto in the finale recalls her exuberance in the E-Major Concerto’s finale.
Unnur Maria Ingólfsdóttir may sound brighter as a soloist than does Rut Ingólfsdóttir, but differences in their timbres serve to help listeners prise apart Bach’s polyphonic lines in the Double Violin Concerto. They play off each other to create seamless though complex intimacy in the first movement (when Jascha Heifetz played both violin parts of this concerto, something vital to its success, many might feel, went missing); they perfectly embody the notes’ comparison of the slow movement to interweaving snakes; and their rapid tempo keeps the spirits high—or the adrenaline flowing—through the finale.
These performances neither recall Isaac Stern’s or David Oistrakh’s fat romanticism in this repertoire, nor do they hurl jagged fragments at listeners. Nor, finally, do they suggest the polished blandness that I’ve often encountered in readings of these concertos by eminent violinists like Nathan Milstein or Zino Francescatti—both of whom gave penetrating accounts of Bach’s works for unaccompanied violin. For those seeking a sort of
, therefore, that’s at the same time genial, essentially straightforward though elegant, and, in all, eloquent and expressive (and who can accept recorded sound more appropriate to the concerto grosso than to the romantic virtuoso blockbuster), Ingólfsdóttir, her fellow soloists, and the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra should provide a satisfying account that won’t grow either irksome or tiresome upon repeated hearings. Reynir Axelsson’s insightful notes complete an attractive package. Warmly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Rut Ingólfsdóttir (Violin),
Unnur Maria Ingolfsdottir (Violin)
Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany
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