Janine Jansen / Riccardo Chailly

Mendelssohn, Bruch: Concertos & Romance

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It is highly unusual for a press release to be so frank in its description of the appeal of a particular performer. But in the case of Decca's 2006 release of Dutch violinist Janine Jansen's coupling of concertos by Mendelssohn and Bruch, the publicist's use of the terms "bedfellows" and "ménage á trois" all-too-plainly announces the prurient interest of Jansen's performances. Because while one may find her technique occasionally sloppy and her tone a bit sappy, there's no dismissing her ardent attacks, her warm vibrato, her frisky rhythms, and her seductive interpretations. In Jansen's performances, Mendelssohn's E minor Concerto is no sleek and stylish Audrey Hepburn, but rather a hot and bothered Marilyn Monroe, and Bruch's G minor Concerto is no sweet and sympathetic Myrna Loy, but rather a ready and willing May West. It should be acknowledged that conductor Riccardo Chailly is so smitten by Jansen that he leads the Gewandhaus Orchester in accompaniments bordering on the lascivious, that Decca is so beguiled by Jansen that its focus is almost entirely on the soloist at the expense of the orchestra, and that this combination only exaggerates the technical weaknesses of her performances at the expense the quality of the music. And it should likewise be admitted that the addition of Bruch's nearly unknown but utterly charming Romance for viola and orchestra will make this disc mandatory listening for fans of the composer's much more popular violin concertos and Scottish Fantasy. But unless style counts for more than substance, serious fans of this repertoire can do better.

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