Arabella Steinbacher: Bruch/Korngold Violin Concertos

Arabella Steinbacher brings together three well-known works that all look to the Romantic Period; the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, Chausson’s Poeme, and Eric Korngold’s Violin Concerto.

Max Bruch was a staunch defender of the traditional romanticism of Mendelssohn and Brahms, an aesthetic reflected in his most popular work, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) wrote his Poeme for Violin and Orchestra during the end of the Romantic period, and while somewhat forward-looking, still has its roots in the 19th Century. Eric Korngold finished his Violin Concerto in 1945, writing in the unabashedly late-Romantic style of his youth.

Because all three of these works were written for with a Romantic aesthetic, one might expect a release full of over-wrought drama and passion. Steinbacher takes a different approach.

Rather than focus on the emotive qualities of the music. Steinbacher plays with a clean, clear tone and temperament well-suited to these works. Her performances are thoughtful, eschewing overblown emotional and technical fireworks. Rather, Steinbacher colors the music more subtly. A light tripping over the strings sounds like a smile. A long, drawn out melody can seem wistful, a technically difficult passage played with ease and a little bit of self-effacement. Steinbacher’s art is quietly attractive, and one that can make even these overly-familiar works sound fresh.

Of course one can play this release on a standard CD player, but to really appreciate everything that’s going on here, I recommend using an SACD player. The more detailed SACD recording reveals all the nuances of Steinbacher’s playing. And it also presents the Gulbenkain Orchestra more accurately. Conductor Lawrence Foster matches Steinbacher’s approach to these works, and additional presence the SACD provides makes for a more satisfying listening experience overall.

Max Bruch; Erich Korngold: Violin Concertos
Arabella Steinbacher, violin; Gulbenkian Orchestra, Lisbon; Lawrence Foster, conductor
Pentatone SACD

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