Notes and Editorial Reviews
It was with the 22-year-old Joachim's wonderful performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto at Düsseldorfs 1853 Whitsuntide Festival still ringing in his ears that Schumann, though within a year of breakdown, felt an irresistible urge to write for violin and orchestra himself. The D minor Concerto, completed in a fortnight by October 3rd, 1853, is no stranger to the CD catalogue. But the Fantasie for violin and orchestra, written during the first week of that same September, was conspicuous by its absence. So how grateful all Schumann-lovers will be for this most welcome coupling of the two works from Zehetmair and Eschenbach.
Whereas Joachim (together with Clara Schumann and Brahms) eventually decreed that the Concerto
should be suppressed, he took the Fantasie into his repertory at once, giving its premiere at the last concert Schumann ever conducted in Düsseldorf on October 27th, 1853. Having previously questioned his faith in the work, I found myself completely won over by this richly characterized new performance. True, there is no mistaking Schumann's difficulty in hiding the seams in his sonata-form argument. But the opening theme of the introduction (so eloquently recalled in both development section and coda) and the lyrical second subject are inspired. The solo part is telling enough—and the orchestral scoring sufficiently discreet—even to suggest that Joachim himself might have proffered a few suggestions about layout.
Despite the Concerto's somewhat laboured, episodic finale, there can now only be thanks to Jelly d'Arányi (never mind all the legendary 'hocus-pocus') for defying her eminent greatuncle and securing the work's publication and performance. Its central Langsam is surely one of the most moving farewells ever written. And it's primarily for Zehetmair's rapt playing of this movement that I'd recommend the new performance in preference to Kantorow (Denon), whose espressivo here is too self-indulgently succulent. In the opening movement both soloists make every note their own with true romantic warmth. But, again, I preferred Zehetmair and Eschenbach, who achieve their ends without quite so obvious a slowing down (unrequested in the score) in second subject territory as also towards the end of the central development. I did nevertheless wonder if they were just a little too faithful to the doch nicht zu schnell qualifying the finale's Lebhaft. It sounds over deliberate. The Philharmonia emerge so full and strong that I also sometimes wondered if slightly smaller forces, as in Schumann's day, might have served his cause better. But Eschenbach, as committed as Zehetmair, never allows the violin to go under. In sum it's a disc that will always find a place on my shelves.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [4/1990]
reviewing the original release of the Schumann, Teldec 44190
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 53 by Antonín Dvorák
Thomas Zehetmair (Violin)
Written: 1879-1880; Bohemia
Concerto for Violin in D minor by Robert Schumann
Thomas Zehetmair (Violin)
Written: 1853; Germany
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