Brahms Violin Concerto - Hi Fi +

This contribution to the audiophile digital software debate is worthy both for its dual SACD & HDCD format and the programme lengths of these classical CDs. Whereas the admirable JVC XRCDs often barely run beyond the forty-minute mark Linn's discs extend to well over seventy minutes of music. Moreover, their association with the SCO and its principal conductor Joseph Swensen, which began two years ago, is certainly producing some excellent recordings. On the surface the choice of repertoire does not appear particularly radical or challenging. Most will be familiar with the Brahms Violin Concerto and his earlier Hungarian Dances. The twist in the tale here comes from the performances because we are accustomed to hearing these works played by a full symphony orchestra and not its little brother. The Scottish Chamber musicians guided by Swensen give dynamic, technically assured and intimate readings overflowing with the subtle touches and flourishes that are effectively retrieved by both the SACD and HDCD processes. Swensen, who rarely performs nowadays as a soloist, is quite beguiling in the Concerto. In the first movement he eases through the elaborate writing in a good-natured and quite endearing way. There is plenty of warmth in a lyrical and gently melodic second movement and for the final virtuoso section where he raises the spirits further with an exuberance that draws deeply on the colour, flair and persuasive rhythmic calling of Hungarian gypsy music. The kaleidoscopic instrumental hues and those syncopated and crossing rhythms of the Dances also underlines a sense that there is a special rapport between this conductor/soloist and these Scottish musicians-making them very satisfying to listen to as well.

Hi Fi +
01 June 2004