Mendelssohn was considered by many to be a Classicist, but in fact his E minor Violin Concerto, composed in 1844, was innovative in many ways. He dispensed with an opening ritornello, introducing the solo instrument with its impassioned main theme after only a bar and also linking the three movements. The pattern of the concerto without ritornello has been the norm ever since. Brahms was a generation younger, and his Violin Concerto in D major was not written until 1878. However, it is more authentically Classical in its form than the Mendelssohn concerto, and opens with an expansive ritornello, as well as allowing the soloist to improvise the cadenza. Both of these ravishing masterpieces have become cornerstones of the violin repertoire.
The great Polish-born violinist Henryk Szeryng had a strong association with the Brahms Concerto throughout his life, and performed it at the very beginning of his career right through to his last concert. He won many awards for his performances of Brahms’s violin repertoire. He brings his technical assurance and elegant style to both these performances, and is joined by the renowned partnership of Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The recordings were made in the warm and resonant acoustic of the Concergebouw Hall, Amsterdam in 1973 (Brahms Concerto) and 1976 (Mendelssohn Concerto).
Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77
1. Allegro non troppo
3. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace
Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
3. Allegro molto
“Szeryng brings an aristocratic poise to the Brahms and a touch of fantasy to the Mendelssohn; his tone is ravishing. Impeccable, insightful performances.”
“The lyricism of the first two movements is polished and intimate (the high-lying cantilene especially finely drawn) … The new performance … is spaciously conceived, with Haitink precisely and punctiliously attending
to the soloist’s every need. In the first movement the broad tempo is offset by the brilliance of Szeryng’s playing; in the finale everything is gratifyingly alert, stylish and unrushed.”
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