As a graduate of the rigorous training system of the Moscow Central Music School and Conservatory (where he studied with Yuri Yankelevich and encountered such rôle models as Oistrakh, Kogan and Gilels), Boris Belkin displays in his playing an effective expression of conventional style in mainstream repertoire. He made his public début with Kirill Kondrashin at the age of seven and performed all over the USSR with leading orchestras whilst still a student.
His solo discography is almost exclusively of the concerto genre, in which there are interesting comparisons to be made with his contemporary and fellow Russian, Viktor Tretyakov, especially in the Brahms and Shostakovich concertos selected here. Belkin’s playing is softer-edged—more romantic perhaps—with less apparent searching for ultimate power and more in the way of rich sonorities. The Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 (1988) lacks a little in directness. Ashkenazy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sugarcoat this austere and passionate work too much in places and there is less of a sense of narrative than in Tretyakov’s performance, gestures being slightly more disparate and less well connected; but these are relatively minor cavils. The same might be said of the Glazunov Concerto (1995), which drifts somewhat in the middle movement, but there is some clear, powerful high-register playing in the finale. The Brahms Concerto (1983) takes the monumental approach and suffers from some instability of intonation in the outer movements; the slow movement is well sustained, although it is curious to hear Brahms’s larger melodic leaps executed with an almost studied avoidance of portamento.
Strauss’s Concerto (1991), which is not so frequently visited by violinists, is given a lively and varied performance and this plays to Belkin’s strengths: lightness and transparency of tone in melodic passages (as at the start of the vivacious finale) and a considered approach to Strauss’s large-scale ideas as well as his frequent evocations of Classical shapes. This work shows Belkin at his most comfortable technically, and displays well his qualities as a justly renowned virtuoso.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist