Despite the favorable impression he made as a child prodigy, as a violin virtuoso well into adulthood, and as a successful and prolific composer, Henri Vieuxtemps failed to secure the same position in the musical canon as some of his contemporaries. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of his compositional output included the violin. The concertos and other solo works keep with the popular virtuosic tradition of the time, but are also pleasingly melodic, though a bit trite at times. The early violin concertos are clearly more juvenile attempts, while the Fourth and Fifth concertos, heard on this Dynamic album, demonstrate Vieuxtemps' more mature style, including his attempt at synthesizing the Italian, French, and German schools and increasing the dialogue and interplay between violin and orchestra. Performing these two technically challenging works (and conducting the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento at the same time) is violinist Massimo Quarta. For its part, the orchestra does a nice job following along with Quarta and engaging him in a musical dialogue. The playing, particularly in the sometimes extensive tuttis, can be a bit brash but overall provides an energetic, appealing backdrop. Quarta's playing is technically vibrant and none of the lofty technical demands in the two concertos seem to pose much of a challenge for him. He does push the envelope with some of the more "sappy" moments in Vieuxtemps' writing but completely crosses the line into the realm of the overwrought. His recorded sound quality is extremely close, sometimes making his tone come across as harsh and shrill. Still, more technically commanding recordings of these concertos are not likely to be found. At just over 50 minutes, this is a rather short disc.
Vieuxtemps: Violin Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 Review
by Mike D. Brownell