This is a truly great performance of Bruch's justly famous First Violin Concerto, a warm-hearted, big-toned performance of stunning virtuosity and consummate musicianship. Pamela Frank clearly loves the work and lavishes all her affection and attention on it. Neville Marriner may not love the work as much as Frank, but he clearly loves making music as much as she does, and he supports her interpretation like a father supports a daughter. When this performance was recorded in 2001, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields was no longer a chamber orchestra, but rather a full-bodied and deep-toned romantic orchestra with the richer colors and lusher textures that better suited Bruch's music.
Coupled with the concerto are equally great performances of Bruch's unjustly neglected Swedish Dances and First Symphony. Marriner's enthusiastic conducting and the Academy's energetic playing make Bruch's Swedish Dances sound nearly on a par with Brahms' Hungarian Dances or Dvorák's Slavonic Dances and his First Symphony sound almost as fine as Schumann's First or Bruckner's First. Anyone who knows Bruch's First Concerto will want to hear Frank's performances of it, and anyone who knows Bruch's concerto will want to get to know his Swedish Dances and First Symphony, too. Hänssler's sound is acceptable overall, but a bit constricted in climaxes and a little thin on top.