The novelty here lies in the program: few would recommend the album for its perfectly adequate, but old-school and slightly mechanical, pair of Bach violin concertos. But the juxtaposition of Bach and Latvian composer Peteris Vasks is something else again. Vasks' music has been showing up with increasing frequency on programs in the West, and this violin concerto, originally dedicated to Gidon Kremer, may be a good place to start with him. It takes Baltic minimalism as a point of departure, and the link with Bach is a pure, abstract quality. But he adds elements of both virtuosity and drama here, giving violinist Renaud Capuçon plenty to do in three cadenzas and building from neutral material to intense climaxes that seem to point, if not to distant light, to something that remains somehow hidden. Including the cadenza, the concerto is in eight short movements, each of which is its own kind of utterance. The very end of the whole thing almost defies description; check it out, but let it be noted that it poses challenges for the violinist that Capuçon surmounts admirably. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe realizes these sounds well in the rather boxy environment of the Darius Milhaud Conservatory concert hall in Aix-en-Provence. In general, this is a fresh take on the time-honored technique of pairing a repertory item with a contemporary piece.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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