Benjamin Schmid

Wieniawski, Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Lutoslawski: Chain 2

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Wieniawski, Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Lutoslawski: Chain 2 Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Violinist Benjamin Schmid's choice of repertoire for this Oehms Classics album is perfectly selected for a number of reasons. For starters, the chronological sequence from Wieniawski to Szymanowski to Lutoslawski brilliantly showcases the often underappreciated lineage of great Polish composers. The works of these three giants are ideally suited to Schmid's own musical career, which synthesizes performances of both classical and jazz compositions. Even the clearly Romantic Second Concerto of Wieniawski has improvisatory characteristics with its frequent allowance for tempo rubato. Schmid takes rubato to the extreme -- almost too much at times -- but is impeccably followed by Daniel Raiskin and the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra. On the other end of the spectrum is the Lutoslawski Chain 2 -- Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra, which goes well beyond rubato and actually calls for ad lib sections from the soloist. It is here the skills honed in Schmid's two-edged career are truly allowed to shine. Although possessing dazzling technique, impeccable intonation, and deep musical understanding, Schmid's sound is surprisingly weak. Even with thinly scored, pianissimo orchestral backdrops, his playing is often difficult to hear; in louder sections, it can become completely absent. Still, the terrific repertoire and the otherwise brilliant performances make this album a suitable choice for most collections.

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