There are many stories about Brahms Violin Concerto, or I should specify, there are lots of stories about violinists and performing the masterpiece. Once a violinist thought they were hired to play Brahms, where there was no rehearsal with the orchestra, just the concerts – as the soloist had a good relationship with the music director and musical group performing together. Since the composition has a lengthy orchestral introduction, he was relaxed with his violin at his side as the conductor raised his baton. When the orchestra began Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (with just a few measures of music/seconds before the soloist plays) instead of the Brahms, it was quite a shock for the violinist to begin this other standard work!
Another tale, early in the concerto’s history, goes that a violinist was furious that the first oboe ‘gets the best melody in the entire work.’ The second movement of the concert, Adagio, begins with a gorgeous solo for the oboe, and so the violinist refused to perform it. Yet another story shares that one “acclaimed violinist” declared that Brahms Violin Concerto to be unplayable…
Janine Jansen is the latest violinist to record Brahms Violin Concerto, and the first to pair it with Bartok’s First Concerto. There’s something magical about Janine’s playing. Jansen controls a great grittiness in articulation, with finesse whenever it is needed – but overall, the excitement is key, and often bold. That is not to say that her sound is ugly, but a certain passion exudes on this disc.
The opening movement benefits from the guidance of Antonio Pappano with the St. Cecilia National Academy Orchestra. “Sheer passion” and “radiant cantabile” are descriptions Jansen herself uses for Pappano and their collaboration. The middle Adagio has great motion, and the infectious finale lives up to the composer’s tempo marking for “cheerful playing, but not too lively.”
“To me they seem a natural pairing” – Janine Jansen
The uninitiated may be hesitant to listen to Bartok’s First Violin Concerto. To quote a well-known sports brand, just do it! There’s much to love about this Hungarian flavored work, and this outstanding new recording. The concerto was written for a young violinist, Stefi Geyer, with whom Bartok was in love, but ultimately broke his heart. She kept the score private, so it was after her death (and over a decade after Bartok’s death) that it was revealed to exist!
Janine Jansen does much to mirror the musical portrait of Geyer, the first movement lyrical and lilting. The more fiery second movement is a delight, although it may push the boundaries for the more conservative ear.
Take a listen for yourself to the new Decca release:
Apple Music: http://po.st/IK9pxc
Be sure to listen for this new release and more on WBAA Classical!