...managed to make me listen to these concertos with something approaching fresh ears...
Andrew McGregor 2007
If you haven’t heard Janine Jansen before, you’ll be struck by the sweet, smooth sound at the start of the Mendelssohn…and the fact that this is taken from live performances is only betrayed by the odd moment when Chailly and the orchestra take a split second too long to react to her. In the first movement there’s the most beautifully calculated gentleness and some memorable pianissimo whispers; then when we reach the cadenza, a sudden rough edge to the tone…but it works, allowing Jansen to sweeten and lighten the sound in the middle. There seems to be an edit between two performances in the middle of the cadenza – a slight change of perspective – but it’s forgotten by the slow movement, where Chailly and the Leipzig strings give Jansen a feather-bed of an opening on which to rest her head and dream…and the finale has an exuberant swagger that’s very appealing.
If anything the Bruch Concerto is a better recording, with great warmth and presence; you don’t often hear this degree of dramatic weight in the Bruch, with some explosive orchestral tuttis where the brass might have you thinking ‘Berlioz!’. Again in the slow movement there’s some fabulous hushed playing, and the seriousness of purpose is maintained in the finale, which eschews the flighty exuberance of some performances for a fuller, deeply satisfying breadth.
As a bonus there’s Bruch’s rarely recorded ''Romance for viola'', where I was expecting to hear Jansen make more of the added range at the bottom end, but it’s the higher lines that soar…and there’s only the slightest hint with a couple of intervals that’s she’s not fully adjusted to the bigger scale of the borrowed instrument.
Do we really need another recording of this classic concerto coupling? Janine Jansen managed to make me listen to these concertos with something approaching fresh ears, which is no mean feat – and the orchestral playing is outstanding.
This recording is Disc Of The Week on Radio 3's CD Review