Korngold: Violin Concerto, Much Ado About Nothing, Etc / Philippe Quint, Carlos Miguel Prieto

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KORNGOLD Violin Concerto. Overture to a Drama. Much Ado about Nothing: Concert Suite Carlos Miguel Prieto, cond; Philippe Quint (vn); Mineria SO NAXOS 8.570791 (53:40)

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto once seemed the almost exclusive domain of Jascha Heifetz, whose recording remained for a long time alone in the Schwann catalog. More recently, Itzhak Perlman (Angel 47746), Gil Shaham (Deutsche Grammophon 439 886, 18:3), and Anne-Sophie Mutter (Deutsche Grammophon 000352602, 28:5), to name only several of the most prominent violinists, have recorded it, and they’ve been joined in the last several years by Leonidas Kavakos, Hilary Hahn (both on DVD), Nikolaj Znaider (RCA 710336, 32:6), James Ehnes (CBC 5241, 32:3), Paul Waltman (Daphne 1032, also 32:3)—and now by Philippe Quint, so that the work at last boasts almost as many recordings as Bruch’s First Concerto did in the early 1960s. Heifetz’s white-hot inspiration would be hard for anyone to match; besides his studio recording, there’s another live one from March 30, 1947, with Efrem Kurtz on Music & Arts 766.

Like the more recent violinists to tackle the Concerto, Quint emphasizes its sweep and lyricism, soaring to moments of rapturous intensity that make their point unmistakably, even if Heifetz’s indelible performance lurks in the background. Quint makes the first movement cogent, never either stale or derivative—and certainly not as percussive to the bone as Heifetz’s crisp staccato made it seem. In fact, if it sounds like one of the great Romantic masterpieces in Naxos’s recording, that may be as much due to Quint, or to Prieto and the orchestra, who provide a sympathetic and, in the slow movement, a magical accompaniment, as to the composer’s virtuosity. Quint plays throughout with a silvery tone that’s warm even in the middle registers and with a great capacity for expressive nuance; while it’s clear that he’s thoroughly in command of the work’s abundant technical difficulties, he never lets them overwhelm the score’s essential melodiousness. Prieto presents the finale’s boisterous first theme with a robust energy that hearkens unmistakably back to its cinematic origins, and he reaches a stunning climax several minutes before the end. That so many recordings of Korngold’s Violin Concerto have achieved so great a stylistic success, though hardly all poured from the same mold—or even from similar ones—attests to the understanding Korngold must have had of the instrument and its expressive resources. Quint’s stands near the top (though all the recordings I’ve mentioned can be highly recommended), not least because of Prieto’s sympathetic accompaniment and the lively recording, which places Quint farther up front, than, say, RCA placed Znaider.

Korngold’s Overture to a Drama , from his 14th year, may not display the same maturity as his Violin Concerto, but it prefigures its sumptuous melodic style and its harmonic lavishness, if not the slickness of its brightly variegated orchestration. In fact, it may be a weakness in the orchestration itself rather than any aspect of Prieto’s performance that prevents the score from making a very deep impression. Korngold adapted the Concert Suite from Much Ado about Nothing for violin and piano, but the full score’s rich orchestral garb makes it even more effective in that more penetratingly witty original version. Prieto and the orchestra generously serve up the youthful and rambunctious good humor of the Suite. The recorded sound throughout combines depth and clarity, and places the soloist in a balance with the ensemble that’s natural if forward. Very highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

Philippe Quint turns in one of the most appealing, least "sticky" performances of Korngold's Violin Concerto yet recorded. If you usually find the piece too kitschy, then you really need to hear this. Like Heifetz, Quint adopts generally swift tempos, and this pays huge dividends in the opening movement--too often the piece sounds like it features two slow movements in a row. Here there is urgency along with passion, and a wonderful lightness in passagework that sustains the melodic thread even in the sections containing multiple stopping--and there are a lot of them. Quint's effortless technique also permits him to find all of the puckish humor in the finale. The tunes come from Korngold's film score to The Prince and the Pauper, after all.

A good bit of the credit for the success of this performance must go to conductor Carlos Prieto and his Mexican orchestra. It doesn't sound like a large ensemble, and that's all to the good. Korngold's orchestration doesn't need to be drowned in strings: it benefits greatly from the transparency on display here, both in terms of balance in the Violin Concerto and also in the Schauspiel Overture. Korngold was only 14 when he wrote the overture, and it's a fully mature and very enjoyable piece in its own right. The adorable suite from Much Ado About Nothing has plenty of charm, and some good horn playing in the finale. A slightly over-prominent, wheezy harmonium in the suite represents the only strike against this otherwise well-engineered production. Definitely recommended.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8570791

  • UPC: 747313079179

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • Conductor: Carlos Miguel Prieto

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Mineria Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Philippe Quint