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Elgar: Violin Concerto / Manoukian, Solyom, Staatskapelle Wiemar

Elgar / Manoukian / Staatskapelle Weimar / Solyom
Release Date: 06/11/2013 
Label:  Berlin Classics   Catalog #: 300429   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian
Conductor:  Stefan Solyom
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ELGAR Violin Concerto 1. Salut d’amour. Offertoire, op. 11 Catherine Manoukian (vn); Stefan Solyom, cond; Staatskapelle Weimar BERLIN 0300429 (57:30) 1 Live: Weimar 6/26/2011

Catherine Manoukian and Stefan Solyom’s joint note in the booklet explains that they considered a live performance the best way to overcome the obstacles posed by the length of Edward Read more Elgar’s Violin Concerto, risking imperfections for the opportunity to preserve the work’s drive, or, at least, forward momentum. That decision may have been particularly felicitous because Solyom and the Staatskapelle Weimar take a view of the majestic opening tutti that’s lyrical as well as rugged—perhaps there’s less momentum in such a conception to be squandered in the stopping and starting of studio recording. Be that as it may, it’s almost been the norm in recordings I’ve reviewed over the past 20 years that visceral live performances exceed in vitality their studio counterparts by the same violinists—practice bears out Manoukian’s and Solyom’s theory in general. In particular, however, it may not be irrefutable: Albert Sammons’s and Henry Wood’s studio recording of the Concerto still seems the most vibrant combination of vigor and lyricism. In that reading, however, Sammons and Wood divided their responsibilities more sharply than do Manoukian and Solyom, with Sammons’s sweet cantabile counterpointing Wood’s granitic strength. Both Manoukian and Solyom share in the first movement’s vigor. The violinist even braces up what can seem wayward wistfulness in the tender second (“Windflower”) second theme, and she blends determination and grit into the passagework throughout the movement—passagework that can lose some of its flinty hardness in a less rigorous approach—at times driving the double-stop forward with feverish (fever-inducing) intensity. Those who believe that Elgar provided so many written directions that there’s almost nowhere for a violinist to wander personally should delight in discovering that Manoukian has found some individual pathways, roads not taken but open. Manoukian’s fervent declamation in the slow movement should come as no surprise, given the vigor of her conception of the first movement. And she soars with ecstatic rapture in the movement’s climax, while hardly sabotaging the sensitivity of the passages that follow it. Solyom and the orchestra invest the opening of the last movement with noble grandeur, which their strong-minded soloist mimics in her entrance. Moments like this one make me wonder anew how Kreisler played the piece at its auspicious premiere in 1910—and how the Concerto fell so far out of favor during the middle of the last century. Does the deep consideration Manoukian and Solyom felt necessary in presenting it effectively suggest one of the reasons? The clarity of the recorded sound brings a special frisson to passages like that about halfway into the Finale, when the orchestra scampers in rapid notes below the violin. The recording represents something of an achievement for its combination of liquidity and solidity; but note that the pair recorded the short pieces nine days before the Concerto’s live performance. What would they have done if something serious had gone wrong during the concert? In any case, they have achieved a much higher level of success than did Itzhak Perlman and Gennady Rozhdestvensky with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (on DVD—Medici Arts 3085228, Fanfare 32: 6). That’s true even if very occasionally something goes slightly wrong here—but it almost never does, and the warm hand the performers received at the end seems for that reason worth preserving, as well as richly deserved.

Manoukian makes a similarly ruddy case for Salut d’amour , in this performance hardly a drooping salon piece, although the pianist preserves the sense of perfumed sensibility. The Offertoire , as rich in its emotional penumbra as the more familiar piece, though less extroverted, also fares well in Manoukian’s reading. (But Simone Lamsma and Yurie Miura brought their program of Elgar’s Sonata and a selection of his short pieces to a conclusion with the same two works in the same order, on Naxos 8.557984, Fanfare 30:6. They also make a more compelling case for the infrequently heard Offertoire at 4:19 than does Manoukian at 4:59—that minute can make a critical difference to so brief a miniature.) In general, for those who revere Elgar’s oeuvre in general and the Violin Concerto in particular, Manoukian’s reading should be required listening, not perhaps displacing Yehudi Menuhin’s early recording, or even more, Albert Sammons’s, but also not Jascha Heifetz’s visceral reading. But required nonetheless. Warmly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in B minor, Op. 61 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian (Violin)
Conductor:  Stefan Solyom
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; England 
Salut d'amour, Op. 12 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian (Violin)
Conductor:  Stefan Solyom
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1889; England 
Offertoire by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian (Violin)
Conductor:  Stefan Solyom
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Weimar Staatskapelle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1903; England 

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