Beethoven/Brahms violin concertos

On occasion, I hear a performance that was done 15-20 years ago, and I conclude:  “Wow… that’s the way to perform these works…”

This DVD features Itzhak Perlman playing two of the world’s most famous violin concertos. They were recorded in 1992 in Berlin with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

The Beethoven concerto was played with wonderful musicianship; there was a flowing dialog between the orchestra and the soloist. Never did the orchestra overpower the playing of the violin solo. The cadenza of the first movement was played with the flawless technique for which Mr. Perlman is famous. The second movement was really sublime. Soaring in melody and musically rendered to seeming perfection. While the last movement was less satisfying because of the simplicity of the composition, the cadenza at the end of this movement again showed off the amazing technical accomplishment of Mr. Perlman. Highly recommended performance.

The Brahms violin concerto was, for me, somewhat of a disappointment. While it is difficult to point to the reasons, I will cite 3 of these, after having listened for a second time to confirm my reaction:

  1. I personally wanted more passion from the performance. Yes… all the notes were there, but not all the passion that I expected.
  2. Orchestra and Mr. Perlman were not all that well melded together, as they were in the Beethoven. At times, I felt that the orchestra was too loud.
  3. I was distracted by Mr. Barenboim’s conducting style until I came to understand that this was a 1992 performance being viewed by me in 2009. 17 years of additional experience have made Mr. Barenboim the conductor I appreciate more fully; and in this DVD, he’s not yet had that experience.

I listened to an old VHS recording of the Brahms Violin concerto with the *same* orchestra (Berlin Philharmonic), conducted by Claudio Abado. Soloist: Gil Shaham. Some of the orchestra members were the same as in the Perlman recording; others were different. What a difference in the performance! This collaboration provided the following:

  1. Much more variety in dynamics, by both the soloist and the orchestra
  2. What a wonderful exchange/interplay between Shaham and viola section of the orchestra, as well as between Shaham and the first Flute player (Emanuel Pakud). And several great solos by the BP’s wonderful Oboe player
  3. All this produced a lot more of the “Passion” I was seeking from the Perlman performance.

The second movement was played in a beautiful, lyrical style by Mr. Shaham, with outstanding orchestral support. One could see how much the *musicians* enjoyed this performance, as well.

I could not locate a DVD of this performance.

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