Jack Liebeck / Martyn Brabbins / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 17: Bruch

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The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 17: Bruch Review

by James Manheim

The Hyperion label's lengthy series devoted to the Romantic violin concerto has focused mostly on forgotten pieces. Thus this release by rising British violinist Jack Liebeck is atypical in that it contains one of the most familiar works in the violin-and-orchestra repertoire, Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46. Liebeck and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra deliver a solid performance of that extravagantly Romantic take on Scottish folk themes, originally dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate. A strong reason to pick this over the hundreds of other recordings of the Scottish Fantasy, though, is the presence of the almost unknown Violin Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 58, dedicated to Sarasate's rival, Joseph Joachim. The booklet provides various speculations as to why this work has been neglected, but it basically boils down to the fact that the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The difference between the Scottish Fantasy and the Violin Concerto No. 3 is the difference between Sarasate and Joachim, ethnic vs. Germanic, colorful vs. structurally ambitious. The concerto seems to have represented Bruch's attempt to write a concerto in the grand tradition of Beethoven and Brahms: it does not plunge in with melody like the Violin Concerto No. 1, but develops its material carefully in an orchestral exposition. Liebeck and company make a strong case for this neglected, nearly 40-minute work, which contains a good deal of music that some may hum (or tap feet) to, and the rousing finale has all the fireworks one could ask. Hyperion's series has uncovered a number of works that deserve rehearings, but this one is an especially nice find.

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