Mendelssohn, Bruch: Violin Concertos / McDuffie, Swensen
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To be competitive, a new recording of this popular coupling should offer something out of the ordinary, and this one does. McDuffie plays with calm, unhurried assurance, but also with a winningly wiry intensity. The pleasant surprise is in Joseph Swensen's extraordinarily acute accompaniments, in which the smaller orchestral forces are conducive to extreme textural clarity and on-the-button accents. Obviously, Swenson--a virtuoso who has of late forsworn the violin for conducting--provides McDuffie with the kind of support he himself would have wanted. The results are very refreshing musically, and should intrigue listeners who are familiar with the dozens of first-class recordings of these concertos already available. Telarc's sound is clean, and very well balanced. --Paul Turok
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Here Swenson is joined by the equally superb and tasteful violinist Robert McDuffie in pitch perfect performances of two favorite 'war horses' of the violin repertoire - the Mendelssohn E minor concerto and the Bruch G minor concerto. The fire and ice of each is balanced by a purity of tone and perceptive approach to the works from the first to the last measures.
For this listener the Bruch has the slight edge, probably due to the fact that this concerto often is played as though it were a jousting match between violinist and orchestra: tutti parts excepted, the individual passages vie for splendor and cancel the full impact. Not so with McDuffie and Swenson. There is a compatibility of thought and execution that can only come when the conductor has full respect and appreciation for the soloist's hurdles. This is as exciting yet as correct a performance of the Bruch as any on record.
Swenson draws a rich, lush and large sound from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and demonstrates his knowledge of the orchestration intricacies of both concerti. Keep an eye on Swenson - he sounds as though he will become as important a conductor as he was a violinist! This recording is as fine as any in the catalogue of these two big works. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 06