Jan Vogler / Mira Wang

Double Concertos: Brahms, Rihm, Harbison

(CD - Sony Classical #19075836752)

Review by

Concertos for violin, cello, and orchestra are not abundant in the repertory, and the decision by the duo of violinist Jan Vogler and cellist Mira Wang to pair the most famous double concerto, that of Brahms, with newly composed works is a sound one. With the strictly serialist Duo Concerto of Wolfgang Rihm as a curtain raiser, the pair proceeds to the Brahms under the baton of Peter Oundjian, making one of his last appearances with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Vogler and Wang have obviously played this many times before, both within and outside the concert hall, and they have a way of taking command of the listener. Yet for some listeners, the Brahms will be unfamiliar. Perhaps because of Oundjian's conception of the work, it has a tense quality lacking the characteristic Brahms lyricism, and the finale doesn't quite have the Viennese swing. The Double Concerto, to the Memory of Roman Totenberg, of John Harbison fares better: the work has currents of deep tension under a lyrical American surface, and Vogler and Wang capture the mixture to the hilt. Sony's engineering, curiously only specified as having taken place in Glasgow, is clear but contributes to the slightly distant feeling of the Brahms. On balance, the album can certainly be recommended to those interested in the ways the concerto repertory is evolving.

blue highlight denotes track pick