Janine Jansen / Paavo Järvi

Beethoven, Britten: Violin Concertos

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Coupling Beethoven's and Britten's violin concertos was a brilliant idea; both start with timpani tattoos, but the former is much better known, and pairing them together will expose at least some listeners to music they might not ordinarily hear. Taken on their own merits, both violinist Janine Jansen and Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen are superb, but bringing them together in the Beethoven concerto was a colossal mistake, for the simple reason that the Dutch violinist and the German orchestra are not playing in remotely the same style. Jansen is a modern violinist who makes tasteful use of the tools of violin playing developed in the 200 years since the concerto was written -- vibrato, glissando, and other tone-enhancing techniques -- while the Bremen musicians eschew nearly all that for the purer style of the composer's own time, albeit on modern instruments. Though individually both Jansen and the Bremen musicians are excellent players, the disjuncture between the styles of the two is unnerving, to say the least. Jansen's technique is fully formed and flashy, while her interpretation is big-boned but lyrical. Led by Paavo Järvi, the orchestra's playing is as tight, sweet, and strong as it is in its series of Beethoven's symphonies. No such problems afflict the Britten concerto since the London Symphony Orchestra is on hand, and the combination is a performance as musical and moving as it is cogent and cohesive. Decca's sound is clear, clean, and transparent, but oddly lacking in depth, warmth, and richness.

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