Fast and fiery, with plenty of heart and soul, Nicolas Koeckert's performances of Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto and Concerto-Rhapsody for violin and orchestra are immediately impressive. The young German-born violinist has a focused tone with an expressive vibrato as well as a terrific technique, and his playing here is nothing less than marvelous. In the well-known Concerto, Koeckert makes the big tunes sing in full-throated joy and the cadenzas soar in ecstasy. In the much less well-known Concerto-Rhapsody, Koeckert holds the nearly half-hour-long, single-movement work together with his passionate interpretation and his seemingly reckless but always controlled virtuosity. A portion of the responsibility for the performances' success must go to conductor José Serebrier and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The former is a seasoned and skilled professional with a career-long interest in slightly offbeat repertoire, the latter one of London's great orchestras, with a particularly glowing sound and an especially elegant ensemble. Together they provide Koeckert with accompaniments so strong he could build skyscrapers on them. Though the performance of the Concerto here is not quite in the same class as David Oistrakh's masterful world-premiere 1954 recording, this disc will nevertheless be mandatory listening for all Khachaturian fans.
Naxos' digital sound is rich, deep, and balanced.