While Nikolaj Znaider is not yet a “household name”, my sense is that the way he performs the Brahms and the Korngold concertos for violin on this CD, may well get him to that position. We currently have a terrific set of performing violinists in Mutter, Shaham, Bell, Sara Chang, Hilary Hahn, and some others; yet Znaider may well be a good competitor in this arena: He is a Danish violinist, the son of Polish and Israeli parents. He’s clearly had strong training…
Znaider’s interpretation of the Brahms violin concerto is very lyrical, musical, and warm. Throughout, he emphasizes the singing qualities of the solo violin part, performing it as if he – in fact – was “singing” it. I especially liked a lot his expressive cadenzas in both the first (Allegro ma non troppo) and final (Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo) movements, with special emphasis on the fiery Gypsy-like qualities of that last movement.
As for the Korngold violin concerto itself, not only does Znaider once again emphasize the lyrical qualities of the score, as he does in the Brahms, but he gives such a strong interpretation of it that I place it among the very best ever recorded.
The Wiener Philharmoniker provide excellent support for Znaider. Valery Gergiev leads the outstanding Viennese orchestra in two excellent interpretations of the Brahms and Korngold violin concerto scores noteworthy for their brisk tempi and clear phrasing, with ample warmth emanating from the strings and winds.
Click below for a video/audio performance of Znauider doing the 3rd movement of the Brahms: