Friday, 8 June 2012

Gidon Kremer plays Elgar

Gidon Kremer has never been a violinist who appealed to me, for some reason or other. A friend sent me his 1967 Queen Elisabeth recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto about a year ago, and it sat on my table awaiting a listening. So he sent me a second copy, demanding I hear it. Frankly, the performance of the violin part is superb. The twenty year old Kremer plays with passion and ease, in this long and difficult concerto. Tempi are mercifully fluid; nothing causes Elgar to sag more than languid tempi and frequent ritardandi. The slow movement lacks tenderness, but is beautifully played (the orchestra isn't much help). The young man fully deserves the rapturous applause from the audience at the end of the piece.

Kremer came away with just the third prize (Philippe Hirschhorn won first prize that year, which made two Latvians in the first three). As usual with these kinds of concerts, the Belgian orchestra and conductor sound as if they are sight reading, and the recording – understandably given the competition focus – features the violinist, with the orchestra somewhat recessed. A real pity that Kremer did not immediately record the Elgar concerto with someone like Boult or Barbirolli conducting a decent orchestra. As it is, however, we still have an extraordinarily convincing performance of the violin part of the concerto.

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