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Elgar: Violin Concerto / Chausson: Poème

3.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 12, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Elgar: Violin Concerto / Chausson: Poème by Itzhak Perlman [Violin]

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Perlman's Elgar has always caused consternation among English critics, largely because it's so much better played from a purely technical point of view than any performance by an English violinist. With its relatively swift tempos, the performance is sometimes judged to be lacking in repose and "inwardness," whatever that is. All of this is complete nonsense. Perlman's playing of this extremely long and difficult concerto places it squarely in the grand Romantic tradition, which is precisely where it belongs. He plays the pants off the piece, and in Daniel Barenboim he has an excellent Elgar conductor leading an orchestra (the Chicago Symphony) of almost peerless quality. An essential Perlman disc. --David Hurwitz

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic
  • Conductor: Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta
  • Composer: Elgar, Sir Edward [Composer], Chausson, Ernest [Composer]
  • Audio CD (March 12, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • Run Time: 63 minutes
  • ASIN: B000001GO7
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,352 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
How difficult it is to remain distant and objective about a performance and a piece of music that you absolutely love. This is one of them, and I must apologise all readers who do not share my feelings towards Perlman's version of the Elgar concerto - try as I would, any attempts of mine to analyze the performance or the recording as such are doomed to fail. And yet I can not resist to put in a few words about this disc, in the hope that a spark will catch on somewhere out there...
As DH mentions in his Amazon review, Perlman's performance has mostly been shunned by British reviewers - his playing here has been described to the lines of 'technical dazzle and nothing much more'. Now, if we were talking about Elgar's Cello concerto, one of his most autumnal 'late' works, I would readily accept criticism as far as 'lack of restraint' goes. However, the Violin Concerto has, in many hands, only suffered from excessive punch-pulling.
I mean, just look at the piece. Elgar himself dedicated the work to someone's soul (he never revealed who the person was but I very strongly suspect that it was a lady, judging by the music). So, the Concerto is not about restraint at all. It's about letting your feelings go at full blast! It's about being young and in love, full to the brim with sweet and noble intoxication! It's about...
Well I did warn you. Anyway, to be honest, I do not think Perlman overdoes it to the least extent, neither is there any hint of self-indulgent virtuoso display (despite the fact that he handles even the most hair-raisingly demanding passages of the nearly 50-minute piece with magisterial ease). I've heard quite a few other versions of this work, and none of them come as close to the heart of the Concerto as this.
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Format: Audio CD
Perlman and Barenboim provide an interpretation with plenty of finesse and excitement, but I would urge anyone who loves this work--or wants to explore it--to hear the recording by Kyung-Wha Chung and Sir Georg Solti that was reissued last year by Decca, coupled with the Mendelssohn concerto.
Chung is better than anyone I've heard at capturing the mercurial qualities of Elgar's score. Pinchas Zukerman once said that of all the violin concertos in the repertory he found this one the most difficult, not technically, but because of the complexity of the emotions it expresses. Listen, for example, to the tenderness with which the violin makes its first entry, and then compare that to the extroverted feelings expressed elsewhere in the first movement.
Chung is particularly good in the meditative passages of the cadenza, which she plays with riveting intensity. And listen to the impassioned way she later bids the themes farewell and launches into the coda. Solti's partnering is superb, and the recording is excellent.
Chung's version is available from Amazon but you may have trouble finding it, because it's just listed under Elgar's Violin Concerto as "Concerto Violin (2)" with no indication of the artist. The disc is also available from Amazon.co.uk, which has a complete listing for it.
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Format: Audio CD
Without a doubt this is one of Itzhak Perlman's finest violin concerto recordings. Here he plays Elgar's violin concerto with much lyricism and warmth, offering a colorful, at times, exuberant performance. Accompanying Perlman is Daniel Barenboim leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in an exemplary performance of the score (Incidentally this was one of Barenboim's first recordings with the CSO.). Theirs is a perfect partnership amongst soloist, conductor and orchestra. Although British reviewers will strongly disagree, I believe that it is among the finest recordings I have heard of the Elgar violin concerto.
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Format: Audio CD
The two-star reviewer is right on this one. A showy, extravert reading of the Elgar Violin Concerto totally misses the point as surely as a showy, extravert reading of Pelleas et Melisande. Elgar was high-minded and sensitive, so his bursts of public eloquene are always balanced by reflective, highly personal passages that are the soul of every major work. The voyage to transcendence in The Dream of Gerontius is replicated in the concerto with the violin as its voice. Nigel Kennedy remains unmatched in his ability to express Elgar's inwardness while at the same time telling a compeling story so that this loquacious work doesn't lose its way. (That David Hurwitz doesn't think 'inwardness' has a meaning is typical.)

Barenboim provides a large-scale but rather clumsy accompaniment, matching Perlman for outgoing display to no great purpose. I think the five-star reviews here reflect the up-close microphone placement that shoves Perlman's virtuosity down our throats, but his tone seems edgy and harsh through my audio system. Despite the claim that this is an Amazon Essential Recording, that's just Hurwitz's quirky preference.
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Format: Audio CD
Perlman is one of my favorite violinists; he has the richest violin tone (a bit thicker than Oistrakh's), has an impeccable sense of phrase and timing, and has astonishing Heifetz-like technique. However, despite these positive attributes, he plays in the same schmaltzy style in nearly all of his pieces. This style, simply put, does not really work to bring the Elgar Violin Concerto to life

The Elgar Violin Concerto is one of my favorite concertos. It has a herculean quality, and contains some of the most beautiful and somber melodies in any violin concerto. In my opinion, in order to play the Elgar Concerto well, one must really understand the phrase and shape it without adding excessive sentimentality. There must also be an English-like nobility to the piece. Perlman's version, while technically very accurate, simply is too sentimental for this piece. There is very little sense of dramatic urgency here, even in the piece's many climaxes. While Perlman's style is fit for Kreisler pieces, it simply does not fits here. I would suggest that one listen to the early Menuhin and Kennedy recordings of this piece.
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Elgar: Violin Concerto / Chausson: Poème
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