Wednesday 13 April 2016

A very fine Violin Concerto from Patricia Kopatchinskaja that will surely help this work to gain acceptance and a particularly musical performance of the Piano Concerto in A Minor from Dénes Várjon on Heinz Holliger’s fourth volume of his complete survey of the orchestral works of Schumann for Audite

Oboist, composer and conductor, Heinz Holliger  continues his survey of the Complete Symphonic Works of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) with Volume IV that brings us the Violin Concerto in D minor together with the Piano Concerto in A minor.

On this new release from Audite Holliger again conducts the WDR-Sinfonieorchester Köln with soloists Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin) and Dénes Várjon (piano)

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Schumann’s late Violin Concerto in D minor, published posthumously in 1938 by Joseph Joachim’s great niece against the wishes of many, has often received a pretty bad press, being described as unadventurous and laboured, with occasional moments of poignant beauty. Yet despite the composer’s mental health at the time of composition he seemed to be experimenting with new ideas that have only in recent years become appreciated.

Heinz Holliger brings a brief moment of glowing translucence to the opening of the first movement marked Im kräftigen, nicht zu schnellen Tempo before the music rises up, full of remarkable resilience, weight and fervour with some beguiling quieter moments before the soloist enters. Patricia Kopatchinskaja brings a sense of spontaneous discovery in her exquisitely turned questioning and wonderfully subtle dynamics. She brings some beautifully phrased virtuosic passages with Holliger and the WDR-Sinfonieorchester bringing a fine weight, finding some lovely Schumannesque harmonies and sonorities. Towards the middle of the movement there is a particularly ear catching moment where the soloist and orchestra have a gentle dialogue, moving through passages of quite remarkable harmonies between soloist and orchestra. Holliger finds some most sensitively drawn, hushed passages with some vintage Schumann whilst, along with the soloist, infusing the music with some most unusual moments.

Langsam has a most affecting orchestral opening to which the soloist gently brings a lovely theme. Both soloist and orchestra achieve a wonderful balance as Kopatchinskaja weaves a lovely line, revealing this as one of Schumann’s finest and most unusual creations. She finds so many little inflections with this conductor drawing exquisite playing from the orchestra, leading to a wonderfully hushed passage before rising for the third movement.

Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell is rhythmically buoyant with Kopatchinskaja finding the distinctive rhythmic phrasing needed. There are some very fine incisive orchestral passages with both soloist and orchestra finding a natural underlying flow and structure. There are many fine little rhythmic phrases as this soloist leads the music forward and a lovely gentler passage that leads to the vibrant, beautifully sprung coda.

This concerto shows just how remarkably individual Schumann was at this difficult period in his life. If this concerto is to fully gain acceptance then this may well be the performance to do it. The recording made in the Philharmonie, Koln, Germany is very fine with the soloist set naturally within the orchestra.

Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, Op. 54 needs no special pleading. Here soloist, Dénes Várjon finds a considered and thoughtful moment after the crisp decisive opening of the Allegro affettuoso from orchestra. With the orchestra he soon develops a faster flow, rising to some very fine passages. Várjon and Holliger shape the music very well, finding a taut rapport that lifts this music. There are moments of refined poetry as well as passages of impressive fluency where the soloist and conductor really push the music ahead purposefully, bringing a directness of approach. Várjon’s phrasing brings a fine pulse to the music with a quite wonderfully done cadenza before a buoyantly sprung coda.

There is a lovely lightness of touch to the Intermezzo. Andantino grazioso with Holliger and the orchestra providing some lovely rubato, letting the music really blossom at times whilst this pianist beautifully dovetails his phrases with the orchestra.

Várjon leaps into a buoyant Allegro vivace bringing a terrific forward propulsion over Holliger’s fine orchestral flow. Both soloist and orchestra find many fine subtleties through some very fine rolling piano passages, all the while subtly developing the music with some particularly fleet and lithe orchestral playing toward the coda.

This is a particularly musical performance lacking in any superficial show for virtuosity’s sake. They receive an excellent recording again from the Philharmonie, Koln and there are excellent booklet notes. 

This is a fine addition to this ongoing Schumann cycle.

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