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Sibelius, Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos / Yoon, Borkowski, Gorzow Philharmonic Orchestra

Sibelius / Yoon / Gorzow Philharmonic Orch
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Dux Records   Catalog #: 336   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean SibeliusPeter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Soyoung Yoon
Conductor:  Piotr Borkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gorzow Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SIBELIUS Violin Concerto. TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto Soyoung Yoon (vn); Piotr Borkowski, cond; Gorzów PO DUX 0336 (72:05)

Violinist Soyoung Yoon’s recording of the immensely popular violin concertos by Sibelius and Tchaikovsky offers a more recent view of these two works, championed (if not owned) several generations ago by Jascha Heifetz and David Oistrakh. If Yoon seems more deliberate in tempo than Heifetz did in the first movement Read more of Sibelius’s work, generous listeners may be inclined to chalk up the slower tempo (resulting in a timing of 17:35—compared to Heifetz’s 13:37 with Walter Hendl) to Yoon’s penetrating exploration of the movement’s dark recesses rather than to any lack of electricity in her musical personality. (That goes for Piotr Borkowski and the orchestra’s atmospheric tuttis as well—and, anyway, Hendl’s arguably more perfunctory accompaniment never achieved the terrifying power of Thomas Beecham’s with Heifetz in 1935, the first movement, of which, incidentally, took 14:17.) Four minutes (in addition to Heifetz’s timing) adds nearly 30 percent to the duration of the performance, and many listeners will feel the additional minutes acutely, despite Yoon’s vibrant musical rhetoric, captivating tonal beauty, and technical command (as well as the rich ambiance of DUX’s recorded sound). Vilde Frang took 16:21 in that movement with Thomas Søndergård on EMI 50999 6 84413 2 6, but she’s quirkier and perhaps rivets the listener’s attention more securely. Yoon and Borkowski seem to take a very leisurely walk through the slow movement as well, although, once again, Yoon’s authority and rapt commitment make the heated passages glow from within—perhaps surprisingly, more so in the outer sections than in the urgent, double-stopped middle one. They say that speed kills, but that refers to the drug; and a smidgen of increase in the tempo probably wouldn’t kill—or even maim—either of these two movements. The last movement falls short of Heifetz’s, however, less in tempo than in the older violinist’s laser-like etching of the passagework as well as of the dancing main theme. It’s a failing that many listeners may feel even the orchestra’s sonorous closing passages can’t fully redeem.

Yoon enters in the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with a kind of personalized yet relaxed characterization of the introductory passage that recalls similar grand—if not grandiloquent—gestures by violinists of an earlier era, like Mischa Elman. She continues through the movement distilling sentiment—though not sentimentality—from its lyrical passages, though she generates a great deal of energy in its virtuosic ones as well. Despite that, one senses that she hardly hurries the double-stopped figuration. (Fritz Kreisler once praised David Oistrakh for daring to play slowly in New York and Zino Francescatti remarked that Oistrakh would slow down in such passages, which Francescatti attributed to the honesty of a great artist.) The slow movement, however, especially approaching its middle section, seems almost lethargic, despite Yoon’s soaring tone and generally warm expressivity—and it nearly reaches stasis near the end of the movement. Yoon makes a brilliant entry in the Finale, but she makes the deepest impression—as she did in the first movement—in the most lyrical passages.

In general, Yoon’s musical personality isn’t the steely one of violinists like Viktoria Mullova, nor the more pliable one of Vilde Frang, but a sort of individual syncretism of these. So she doesn’t make an impression as neutral as do some other frequent competition winners, who have perfected the ability to offend no one but move a similarly restricted number of listeners. For that reason alone, it’s easy to recommend her pairing of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, despite the galaxies of stellar recorded performances of both. And more urgent recommendations may come in a few years.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Soyoung Yoon (Violin)
Conductor:  Piotr Borkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gorzow Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Finland 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Soyoung Yoon (Violin)
Conductor:  Piotr Borkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gorzow Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 

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