Baiba Skride

Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1; Janacek: Violin Concerto

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While not a lot of its classical pursuits in the 2000s have panned out, Sony Classical has had good luck with violinists, thanks due to the popularity of contract player Hilary Hahn and an apparent assumption of the recording duties of the great Canadian violinist Lara St. John. This is Latvian violinist Baiba Skride's third disc, the first two being released simultaneously in 2004 and, of these, the violin solo disc -- containing works by Ysayë, Bartók, and Bach -- winning a German Echo Classic award. Skride has earned praise from the magazine The Strad as "One of the most exciting young talents to have emerged since Itzhak Perlman." That may be, but Skride's Shostakovich and Janácek violin concertos doesn't entirely succeed in conveying what the excitement is all about. The recording, made by Deutschlandradio Kultur, is a little weak though clear, particularly in the Shostakovich, which is almost inaudible as it begins; the Janácek is better, fuller in sound. Marek Janowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin turn in a clean, but dutiful, accompaniment that only seldom rises to a pitch of excitement. Skride is definitely a good violin player; very quick, agile, and accurate, although in much of this disc it doesn't sound like her playing has a lot of body; a good deal of it comes off as rather thin and wiry sounding. This may be in part due to the recording, which emphasizes crystal clarity over electricity, and overall sounds rather flat and undynamic. If one fancies the violin and has tickets to go see Baiba Skride, this is probably not a bad option as it at least gives the listener an idea of what she sounds like, although the solo violin disc would probably be a better vehicle for that.

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