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Robert Maxham
Fanfare, April 2007

To Max Bruch's chagrin, his First Violin Concerto overshadowed his other compositions in popularity, even though he especially cherished In Memoriam among his works for violin and orchestra. Heifetz and Elman played the Second Concerto, as does Perlman, but such championship hasn't garnered public acclaim for it. Similarly, Heifetz played Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, reportedly his favorite violin concerto; and if that work doesn't exactly languish in repertoire limbo, it's never challenged the First Concerto's dominance. The Third Concerto, despite recordings by Accardo (in his complete set of Bruch's works for violin and orchestra), by Lydia Mordkovich's (Chandos 9784)-- reviewed by John Bauman in 23:5, by Andreas Krecher, MDG 335 0868, 22:6, Isabelle van Keulen, Koch Schwann 6522, 25:2, and others, has been left in the dust. Naxos has paired the popular First Concerto with two infrequently played concerto-like movements (both had been associated with the composer's attempts to write another violin concerto); could it have been intended as a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down? Fedotov and Yablonsky's performances of the Scottish Fantasy and the Serenade appeared more than a year ago as Naxos 8.557395, 28:6.

As he did in the Serenade, Fedotov takes a muscular approach to the First Concerto, bringing to the work a commanding tone that has been magnified by engineers who have shone a bright spotlight on him. At times, as in the first movement, his penchant for portamentos takes an unexpected turn, with unusual, and perhaps for some listeners no longer accustomed to old-fashioned expressivity, distasteful, results. In the recitative-like opening of the first movement, though, Fedotov takes hold of the audience's attention with an authority like Isaac Stern's; in the slow movement, he's ardently warm; and, in the finale, dashing. If the First Concerto might, but for Joachim's advice, have been given a different title, the Konzertstück (like the Serenade) might have been designated as Bruch's Fourth Concerto. In its sweeping symphonic scope and its Spohr-like passagework, the first movement resembles that of the Third Concerto, although with subtler melodic nuances (the second subject, though drier, recalls, in its yearning, the similar passage in the Third Concerto); the second movement, based on an Irish air, The Little Red Lark, returns to the directness of the Scottish Fantasy's slow movement--evidence that Bruch could still present folk material with unaffected, though hardly ineffective, simplicity. Fedotov and Yablonsky make a strong case for this rich later work, with Fedotov scaling back the impetuosity he displayed in the First Concerto to accommodate the work's less aggressive rhetoric; while Yablonsky and the orchestra showcase Bruch's sensitive and colorful orchestration. The earlier Romance calls for an even greater subtlety and subdued sensitivity, and Fedotov and Yablonsky once again rise to the challenge.

Although Heifetz and Stern, vastly different personalities, may provide unique access to Bruch's milieu and especially to his First Concerto, Fedotov's way with Bruch's less well-known Konzertstück and Romance make this compilation, which enjoys the extra advantage of digital recorded sound, well worth adding to any collection. Recommended.



Robert_Maxham
Fanfare, March 2007

To Max Bruch's chagrin, his First Violin Concerto overshadowed his other compositions in popularity, even though he especially cherished In Memoriam among his works for violin and orchestra. Heifetz and Elman played the Second Concerto, as does Perlman, but such championship hasn't garnered public acclaim for it. Similarly, Heifetz played Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, reportedly his favorite violin concerto; and if that work doesn't exactly languish in repertoire limbo, it's never challenged the First Concerto's dominance. The Third Concerto, despite recordings by Accardo (in his complete set of Bruch's works for violin and orchestra), by Lydia Mordkovich's (Chandos 9784)-- reviewed by John Bauman in 23:5, by Andreas Krecher, MDG 335 0868, 22:6, Isabelle van Keulen, Koch Schwann 6522, 25:2, and others, has been left in the dust. Naxos has paired the popular First Concerto with two infrequently played concerto-like movements (both had been associated with the composer's attempts to write another violin concerto); could it have been intended as a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down? Fedotov and Yablonsky's performances of the Scottish Fantasy and the Serenade appeared more than a year ago as Naxos 8.557395, 28:6.

As he did in the Serenade, Fedotov takes a muscular approach to the First Concerto, bringing to the work a commanding tone that has been magnified by engineers who have shone a bright spotlight on him. At times, as in the first movement, his penchant for portamentos takes an unexpected turn, with unusual, and perhaps for some listeners no longer accustomed to old-fashioned expressivity, distasteful, results. In the recitative-like opening of the first movement, though, Fedotov takes hold of the audience's attention with an authority like Isaac Stern's; in the slow movement, he's ardently warm; and, in the finale, dashing. If the First Concerto might, but for Joachim's advice, have been given a different title, the Konzertstück (like the Serenade) might have been designated as Bruch's Fourth Concerto. In its sweeping symphonic scope and its Spohr-like passagework, the first movement resembles that of the Third Concerto, although with subtler melodic nuances (the second subject, though drier, recalls, in its yearning, the similar passage in the Third Concerto); the second movement, based on an Irish air, The Little Red Lark, returns to the directness of the Scottish Fantasy's slow movement--evidence that Bruch could still present folk material with unaffected, though hardly ineffective, simplicity. Fedotov and Yablonsky make a strong case for this rich later work, with Fedotov scaling back the impetuosity he displayed in the First Concerto to accommodate the work's less aggressive rhetoric; while Yablonsky and the orchestra showcase Bruch's sensitive and colorful orchestration. The earlier Romance calls for an even greater subtlety and subdued sensitivity, and Fedotov and Yablonsky once again rise to the challenge.

Although Heifetz and Stern, vastly different personalities, may provide unique access to Bruch's milieu and especially to his First Concerto, Fedotov's way with Bruch's less well-known Konzertstück and Romance make this compilation, which enjoys the extra advantage of digital recorded sound, well worth adding to any collection. Recommended.






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1:52:27 AM, 13 July 2014
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