21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the greatest but my favorite
This has retained its place as my favorite version of Brahms' masterpiece for one critical reason: it is the slowest traversal of the titanic opening Allegro non troppo you can find, making the architecture of this concerto more apparent than in any other recording. I differ with other critics here who call Kennedy's music-making sentimental or lacking in taste. I find...
Published on March 19, 2004 by Larry VanDeSande
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A crossover king does (pretty) well by Brahms
Tennstedt was the most improvisatory of conductors, and his notion of the Brahms violin concerto slows the first movement down to Celibidache speed: at 26 min. it is, almost incredibly, 8 min. longer than Heifetz's account with Reiner. This would make more sense if Nigel Kennedy were a larger-than-life violinist, but his interpretation is lyrical and understated. The...
Published on March 25, 2006 by Santa Fe Listener
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the greatest but my favorite,
This has retained its place as my favorite version of Brahms' masterpiece for one critical reason: it is the slowest traversal of the titanic opening Allegro non troppo you can find, making the architecture of this concerto more apparent than in any other recording. I differ with other critics here who call Kennedy's music-making sentimental or lacking in taste. I find great beauty and sweep in his playing and in the way he is supported by the late Klaus Tennstedt and the London Philharmonic. There is little about this recording that can make it the greatest version -- especially with the Oistrakh, Vengerov and Heifitz versions still around and sounding great -- but this is a very worthy competitor in the Brahms Violin Concerto stakes. It was recorded in 1991 during a time when hype over then Nigel Kennedy -- who later became Kennedy and now is back as Nigel -- seemed larger than his music and artistry. Many critics reacted to the hype, his haircut and video demeanor to criticize his work here and elsewhere. That was unfair, of course, and not a realistic representation of his artistry. The main shortcoming on this CD is the lack of accompanying music and only about 45 minutes of playing time. Any way you cut it that's short shrift for a full price CD. To accommodate that, I burned a home CD containing this and a version of the Schumann Violin Concerto, making my own more substantial CD. Still that shortcoming does not diminish the beauty and artistry Kennedy, Tennstedt and LPO have achieved in one of the most deliberately paced recordings of this music in history. For me, that lengthens the experience, making it better, more beautiful and more fulfilling.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wild boy proves his talent,
By A Customer
Can't say I could ever get too excited by the Nigel-Kennedy-as-Jim-Morrison-of Classics schtick. The bad hair and the wizard wildness of the Four Seasons all smelled too much of a marketing plan. So how then do you explain this? For me the Brahms is the mightiest of the great violin concertos. I have had the privilege to hear it played by some of the greats and I have several versions on disc. I rarely listen to them, though. This - for me - is the one. By some miracle of grace, Kennedy is on perfect form for this recording, disciplined enough to sustain the music's compelling structure, but wild enough to give this the real romantic passion that lies at its heart. There are more scholarly versions, perhaps more technically beautiful, but none that I have heard more sexy and heartbreaking than the Kennedy & Klaus show. A credit to them all. A great loss that Kennedy shows little interest in maturing his talent in the classics-as-we-know-them, but perhaps after this piece of magnificence he can be excused for wondering what to do for an encore.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KENNEDY MAKES GOOD HIS PROMISE... AND THEN SOME!,
I first heard Kennedy's Brahms via a PBS video a few years ago and was literally shorn emotionally asunder.
The sheer beauty of his performance eclipsed my sense of space and time; I was aesthetically "displaced." I felt as if I had entered the soul of Brahms--- in a heartbeat--- and dwelt there until concerto's end. I could hardly recover; I needed to obtain the CD as soon as possible. It's a remarkable thing to be so profoundly transformed.
In life we all share such defining moments. For those of us who love music with a passion, such moments, rare as they are, come unheralded most of the time. Unexpected. As humans, to be able to be moved by music, performance or performer is a truly wondrous experience. Ephemeral as these experiences are we try to capture, or regain, the moment. A century filled with its various methods of recording sound attests to our human need to recapture, re-experience.
Treasures like Kennedy's performance of the Brahms' Violin Concerto are the rarest, most elemental, configurations of the human condition; they remind us who we are, where we've come from, what we love. Treasures like this, which are perfect unions of composer, composition and artists, compel us, move us to new planes and urge us to realize that perhaps the "magic" of music, especially in a performance such as this, is the distillation of a thousand random acts.
[Running time: 45:55]
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful album, but too expensive,
As I have said before, in order to properly enjoy a Nigel Kennedy album (or write an honest review of one!), one must forget the marketing hype and his classical "bad-boy" image, and concentrate on the music itself. This recording of the Brahms Concerto is most certainly one of Kennedy's finest achievements. Generally described as the titan of violin concertos, it is admirably played and recorded, and the result is about 45 minutes of beautiful sound. The gargantuan opening movement is alternately lyrical and dramatic, and Kennedy takes his time in allowing Brahms' music to unfold, not rushing through it but actually going quite slowly. Apparently, although I have not heard many different renditions of this work, Kennedy's tempos are the slowest on record, and it really allows one the appreciate the massive scale of the first movement. Kennedy provides his own cadenza at the end of the movement; it is a remarkable display of improvisation, but one wonders if perhaps a little too long (it clocks in at almost five minutes!). The second movement is a like a tender love song, and the oboe soloist, David Theodore, distinguishes himself in the opening bars, as does the entire London Philharmonic wind section throughout the movement. The horns provide obbligato accompaniment while the flutes and clarinets shift in and out around the solo violin. The third movement rounds out the piece nicely with the mandatory virtuoso fireworks, but Brahms avoids gratuitous displays of technicality and keeps things fresh and exciting yet meaningful throughout the finale. The writing here suits Kennedy's style perfectly, and he finishes off the concerto with a bang. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Klaus Tennstedt, is amazing, and the EMI recording is excellent. My only regret with this album is that the disc only contains forty-five minutes of music, which, wonderful as it is, doesn't justify the $16.98 price tag. But if you're willing to splurge and spend some extra money, you certainly won't be disappointed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A crossover king does (pretty) well by Brahms,
Tennstedt was the most improvisatory of conductors, and his notion of the Brahms violin concerto slows the first movement down to Celibidache speed: at 26 min. it is, almost incredibly, 8 min. longer than Heifetz's account with Reiner. This would make more sense if Nigel Kennedy were a larger-than-life violinist, but his interpretation is lyrical and understated. The tortoise-like tempo gives him no problems as far as phrasing goes, but it doesn't add anything special, either.
The Adagio is quite measured also, but it seems faster by contrast with the first movement and is more suited to Kennedy's attempts to cast a spell. The finale is up to speed, and here I appreciated the soloist's lack of aggression. Tennstedt gets beautiful playing from the London Phil., caught in clear if unexceptional sound. Kennedy was lucky to make this recording in 1990, before the influx of superior Russian virtuosi (Rapin, Rachlin, Vengerov, Spivakov) had made a full impression, and before Sarah Chang, Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Hilary Hahn emerged in America. His interpretation lacks fire and emotional depth, but on the other hand one can't argue with his understated way, given how innately musical he is. In all, I found one listen was enough, but fans of Kennedy may be enraptured.
P.S. -- Tennstedt made two other versions of the concerto, one on a budget EMI CD with the little-known German Ulf Hoelscher, the other a pirate account in good broadcast stereo with Miriam Fried and the BSO> In both cases his tempos are normal and even a bit quickish. I really ove the holescher reading. Both versions are preferable to this one with Kennedy.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't agree more ...,
I heartily agree with hriminton above. I have this recording and listen to it any time I feel down and need to be inspired. I saw Kennedy perform and was amazed at the ease with which he plies his art. He mesmerized the audience and I was entranced by this naughty boy playing such beautiful music! His Beethoven is wonderful, but this CD is the one I listen to most.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! Both 1st movement AND adagio are expansive enough.,
Transcendent, majestic, sublimely beautiful. There aren't enough adjectives to capture the perfection of both soloist and conductor in this performance. I had, until recently, avoided listening to the Kennedy/Tennstedt because I had always been put off by Kennedy's flamboyance and all the self-promotional theatrics. I had also read the many complaints that his rendition lacked thrust and power. WRONG! I now find myself in profound disagreement with the critics of this take on the D major. First of all, there are many listeners - myself included - who prefer a more leisurely paced Brahms, in both the concertos and the symphonies. We actually long for a performance that emphasizes beauty and nobility of expression over drama and ersatz excitement. The sheer gorgeousness of Kennedy's tone, consistently deployed even in the most dramatic passages, is precisely what we want to hear in a Brahms concerto. The notion that Kennedy doesn't produce a big enough or heroic enough sound for this broad a rendition strikes me as very odd indeed. For Brahms done in this lyrical a manner, his sound is certainly 'big' enough.
Those who have little interest in recordings where the incomparable Adagio is done at anything other than a 'glacial' pace will find this 2nd movement deeply satisfying. Here it is played with the contemplative beauty, and the lingering, exquisitely-executed oboe passages that befit the 19th century's greatest oboe concerto, if you will (yes, I realize that there are many who won't). And the most pleasant surprise of all is the marvelously expansive first movement. Perhaps it isn't a true Allegro, but at 26 minutes, it never lags for an instant, and Tennstedt has his London Philharmonic positively glowing with the inner fires of Brahmsian poetry. I never once found myself 'looking at my watch'.
The perfect textures and balances produced in the interweaving horn-against-woodwind passages are pure Tennstedt; they simply cannot be achieved in so hypnotic and lustrous a manner at a faster clip. The listener is left with the overall impression that Kennedy and Tennstedt view this as every bit as much a Brahms symphony as a concerto, and one to be played in the genteel style rather than Karajan's HOP style (High-Octane Power Style). Exactly. And kudos to the reputedly self-aggrandizing Kennedy for putting his ego sufficiently aside in order to produce this kind of interpretation. So if you are one of those who regard the Kremer, the Heifetz, the Oistrakh (in the Adagio, less so in the Allegro), the Mutter, etc. as Brahms played at warp speed; if the Tennstedt/Hoelscher recording with the North German Radio strikes you as absurdly fast-paced, the Kennedy is highly recommended.
The sonics are very fine indeed, by the way, even by today's standards, and the London Phil has never sounded better. The only objection I have is to the ungenerous 45 minute playing time. Some more Tennstedt would have served just as well as more Kennedy, but EMI is not an eleemosynary institution (OK, so they're greedy as sin), and for those who want a good dollop of leisurely paced, intoxicating Brahms this may just hit the spot.
5.0 out of 5 stars Perlman's Twin bother,
Sometimes I think that a 5star Brahms is more a matter of simply not loosing it simplebut sometimes it feels that way. But any real artist ,such as Kennedy or Perlman wouldn't back off but rather press on of music from this grand score. Nothing is unworthy of one's best efforts, especilly in Brahms. My personal favorite is Perlman and Giulini on EMI with the incomperable Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This Kennedy disc, with the splendid London Philharmonic under Klaus Tennstedt,in the top 5 of mine with Giulini,is a rapterous 1st or 2nd runner up to Perlman, and that is saying a lot...quite a talented youngster this Jewish kid from the States. I own them both and enjoy comparing the different styles.
To simply cut to the chase,SA THEY SY, THE MJOR DIFFERENCE HERE IS IN THE CADENZA. KENNEDY'S CADENZAIS PARTLYJOACHIM BUT LARGELYKENNEDY'S HIMSELF. NOTHING PERSPNAL YOUNGMAN, but you are no Joachim and your portion of the cadenza is simply too weak. Stick with the majority opinion, after all, the brilliance of the violin soloshowcase is there fro a reason, ansd in this case, a VERY good reason. Still, for a crossoverstar, the kind multiple generTIONS CN RELteto, this sapotlight is quite good for a 'part-time 'classical violinist,and the onlyreally good one I know. The rapturous and sugar sweet Adagioa full 60 seconds longerthan in Perlman, but the effect is virtually identical. It is here that we find delicateand unspekabvly fragile mDoe Perlmanhave a Twin Brother??usic,why, ever a cough might damage it misty borders. Kennedy holds us in hisgrip ever so genrtly. This is softlights, candlelit dinner the ring and "will you marry me " music. No doubt about it. he concluding allegro giocoso runs 8:18 for Kennedy and a second shorterwith Perlmn.an, or virtually identical. Both interpretations arepoetic,galle
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fine performance, superbly recorded,
Tastes differ, of course, but if I were asked to name a violin concerto recording that had the solo instrument and the orchestra in ideal balance, I would name this one, without hesitation. EMI in 1990 did Tennstedt and Kennedy proud, whatever you might think of the interpretation. In the first movement, violin and orchestra share thematic material but seem to be assertive in their respective ways; in the other two movements, they seem more in conversation, and the effect is very engaging. Kennedy's playing here seems to divide opinion, but it seems lovely to me. He takes his time, but nothing is dull -- in the long first movement, he enables us to savor the cadenza-like moments, the lyrical interludes, and the more positively attacked sections, and he and Tennstedt manage the transitions between them very convincingly. That first movement is a drama in itself, full of variety in their hands. The second and third movements are expressively less complex, but both are beautifully played -- the lullaby-like second movement is like an intimate conversation between violin and orchestra, and in the third, Kennedy has fun with the bells and whistles: it's highly enjoyable. I should add that I found Kennedy's own first-movement cadenza perfectly fine, and played with lovely tone quality. This concerto is a great work, and there's more than one way to do it. Like Salerno-Sonnenberg, Kennedy is on the slow side (though more varied in expression than S-S), and it works just fine. Really good musicians lead you in to a willingness to dwell in their sound-worlds, and Kennedy and Tennstedt do that here.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More Brahms, Less Nigel. Please,
Nigel Kennedy may be the darling of younger classical music audiences, refusing to get dressed for concerts, but his lack of discipline is alarming. Given the size of his talent, this is tragic. He seems to take himself and his star status so much more seriously than the music.
I have two tests by which to judge a mediocre or bad concerto performance. One is when the soloist seems to think the point of a piece is to give him a chance to show off, rather than a challenge to see how well he can play the composer's music. The other is the number of times I look at my watch during the performance and ask: "Is this almost over YET?" This recording scores notoriously high on both counts.
It took me a long time to forgive Klaus Tennstedt, an otherwise
wonderful conductor, for giving in to Kennedy's self-indulgence here. Instead he should have whacked him upside the head with his baton and said: "Follow my beat, damn it!" The slow movement is taken so painfully slowly that the ensemble actually falls apart... TWICE! In the first movement cadenza, Kennedy exhibits a formidable talent for improvisation, together with a dreadful inability to edit himself. Again, you wind up repeatedly looking at your watch, wondering when it's all going to be over.
If Brahms had lived to hear this recording, he probably would have burned his score in order to prevent further damage to his art.
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