Jack Liebeck / Martyn Brabbins

The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 21: Bruch

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The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 21: Bruch Review

by James Manheim

The German composer Max Bruch wasn't quite a one-hit wonder, but even he expressed annoyance at the fact that his Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, thoroughly surpassed his other two. The Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44, was identified with the violinist Pablo de Sarasate, who commissioned the work to be written to an extensive program; after Sarasate's death, people lost interest in trying to follow the program (you'd never guess that the work depicts the Spanish Carlist civil wars of the 19th century), and the work dropped out of the repertory. Its revival began with its world premiere recording by Jascha Heifetz in the 1950s, and a careful performance of the work that makes space for its gorgeous melodies reveals it as the equal of the Violin Concerto No. 1. That's exactly what it gets here from British violinist Jack Liebeck and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the indefatigable Martyn Brabbins. You could sample the middle movement (track 2) with its instrumental recitative for an idea of the work's programmatic origins. Even more surprising is the high quality of the late Konzertstück in F sharp minor, Op. 84, and In memoriam in C sharp minor, Op. 65, the latter a work not written in memoriam of any specific individual but a general elegiac piece that sustains its mood gloriously over its 15-minute length. Only the final Adagio appassionato, Op. 57, feels like a reject from a longer work. With sound from the acoustically superb City Halls in Glasgow, this is an essential find for violinists and those who love them.

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