Mendelssohn, Bruch: Violin Concertos, Etc / Raiskin, Schmid, Et Al
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto. SCHUMANN Fantasy in C for Violin and Orchestra, op. 131. BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 • Benjamin Schmid (vn); Daniel Raiskin, cond; Rhenish PStO • OEHMS 725 (65:41)
Benjamin Schmid, playing the 1731 Lady Jeanne Stradivari, gives an account of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto that leans to the tough, fibrous side; his energy, though perhaps not so white-hot as Heifetz’s, nevertheless will carry most listeners along willy-nilly. Schmid combines abundant nuance with sensitivity in the first movement’s lyrical second theme (which he enlivens with almost playful accents); all this assures the listener’s continued interest, familiar though the work has become. His bow snaps in the passagework throughout. Daniel Raiskin and the orchestra’s stormy account of the score complements Schmid’s strong-minded reading of the solo. Schmid manages to make the cadenza sound almost like an improvisation, and he brings the movement to a rousing conclusion after his energetic recapitulation of the movement’s thematic material. The slow movement also contains individual nuances that stamp the performance as someone’s (even if it might not be Schmid’s in particular) rather than just anyone’s; the same combination of grit and brilliance that personalized Schmid’s reading of the first movement reappears in the finale, with the orchestra occasionally highlighting passages that might go unnoticed in less personal performances. The conclusion is pure adrenaline.
Schumann’s Fantasy, written in response to a suggestion by Joseph Joachim, offers a vehicle in which a violinist can display both well-stropped technique and musical acumen. Schmid is fully equal to the dual challenge; supported by the buoyant accompaniment, he gives an account at the same time rousingly and confidently virtuosic and musically penetrating.
Schmid seems to strain to communicate a stronger sense of the first movement of Bruch’s First Concerto, though he takes flight in the lyrical second theme. The very strength of his tone robs the second movement of some of the tenderness often associated with it, although in the last passages he winds down to a hushed sense of mystery. The finale is made to order for a violinist of Schmid’s predispositions, and his performance cuts and slashes with abandon.
The engineers for the two recording sessions (in February 2008 for Mendelssohn and Schumann and December 2007 for Bruch) bring the soloist slightly forward without violating what many listeners consider a natural balance. Recommended, most strongly, perhaps for the Fantasy, but for the other performances as well—despite the competition.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Catalog Number: OC 725
Label: Oehms Classics
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch, Robert Schumann
Conductor: Daniel Raiskin
Orchestra/Ensemble: Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Performer: Benjamin Schmid