Album Reviews

Brahms & Joachim Violin Concertos – Rachel Barton Pine/Carlos Kalmar

(Cedille) UK release date: 28 July 2003

Rachel Barton Pine - Brahms & Joachim Violin Concertos On paper this is just another available version of the frequently recorded Brahms violin concerto, but Cedille have now teamed up with the virtuoso fiddler Rachel Barton Pine to pair it with a substantial work by Joseph Joachim, the demon violinist. Not only that, but Joachim takes first billing with his epic 50 minute Concerto In The Hungarian Style.

A surprisingly lacklustre, rather woolly opening to the work by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is offset by Barton’s dazzling entry, full of double stopping and bringing home the full passion behind the music. It’s a long listen for a first movement, longer than many a Mozart concerto at 27 minutes, but it mostly has enough to keep the listener interested, particularly with Barton at the helm. She’s clearly done her research on this work, and applies a flawless technique.

A charming Romanze forms the second movement, with a more dramatic central section, until the call to arms from the horn that indicates the onset of the finale, making use of the gypsy elements of the Hungarian style. The polished orchestral accompaniment under Carlos Kalmar is not exactly authentic but serves well as a counterpart.

It’s very interesting to hear the Brahms in this particular context, and as a bonus Barton Pine ends the first movement with her own showy cadenza as an alternative to Joachim’s. The latter is preferable, as it rounds off the movement more logically. Once again this work suffers from a stodgy first few bars but once Barton’s around the music making moves up a notch with the necessary urgency.

The finale zips along with plenty of verve, Brahms’s Hungarian connections all the more telling off the back of the Joachim piece.

This is a fascinating juxtaposition of works by two friends, and particularly good to have a modern digital version of the Joachim in the catalogue. You won’t be disappointed if your curiosity gets the better of you.

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Brahms & Joachim Violin Concertos – Rachel Barton Pine/Carlos Kalmar