Renaud Capucon, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin Beethoven and Korngold Violin Concertos Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Altogether, an elegantly feel-good disc.

Charlotte Gardner 2009

Capucon’s latest solo release is a beautiful and appropriate pairing of two concertos that, separated by 140 years, don’t at first appear to have much in common. However, despite their very different musical sound worlds, the essential flavour of both is of lyricism. Egotism is out, as both works are at their best when their very real technical challenges are not milked for show. This makes them perfect choices for Capucon’s elegantly understated delivery.

Against the background of today’s classical world, where mid-work applause is greeted with anything from snooty pity to downright vitriol, it’s refreshing to know that Beethoven didn’t mind when the violinist premiering his concerto in 1806 separated the second and third movements with a series of virtuoso stunt pieces. Perhaps, being at the height of his fame, Beethoven was simply past any inferiority complexes, or perhaps he even concluded that some mid-work fireworks might set up his upbeat Rondo rather well. Who knows? In any case, it’s likely he’d have approved of Capucon. His sweetly mellifluous reading of the concerto captures its tranquil, smooth polish, the double-stopped cadenzas are silky smooth, and even the Rondo, whilst appropriately playful, is elegantly so. The sheer scale of the work (the first movement alone is longer than the entirety of most other earlier violin concertos) means that the orchestra is much more than mere accompaniment, and in its large stretches of music unadorned with soloist action the Rotterdam matches and builds on Capucon’s interpretation. Their reading of the second movement is guaranteed to move in its sheer emotional nobility.

Unlike Beethoven, Korngold had plenty to prove. Having spent the Second World War composing film music, this 1945 concerto was his first concert piece in years and pressure was on to silence the critics who claimed that he’d sold his artistic integrity to Hollywood. Despite the quotes from his film music, this concerto certainly did the job with its beautifully crafted romantic lyricism. Capucon’s reading embraces its filmic lushness, but the sweetly refined elegance stays, as does the unshowy treatment of the technical googlies. Altogether, an elegantly feel-good disc.

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