This disc juxtaposes two significant Russian works for violin and orchestra, each written by a composer with a close relationship to Tchaikovsky, and each dedicated to the great violinist and pedagogue Leopold Auer. These two concertos are both formidable display pieces, designed to show off Auer’s transcendental technique. Ilya Gringolts, acclaimed as one of the great young violin virtuosos of today and lauded for his debut recording on Hyperion, dazzles in this repertoire, ably supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov.
Arensky’s Violin Concerto is an original single-movement work, cast in contrasting sections. It is a model of the flowering of Russian romantic nationalism—Tchaikovsky’s influence on his friend is pleasingly evident—as is Arensky’s gift for melody and delightful contrasts of musical character. Taneyev’s much larger Suite de concert is a synthesis of different styles: it looks back to the Baroque suite with its different dance movements, the Märchen movement suggesting the high Romanticism of Schumann and the Theme and Variations a homage to Tchaikovsky. Particularly striking is the finale: an energetic and vivacious Tarantella, almost relentless in its onrushing rhythm. As the finale proceeds the dance becomes more frenetic, driving to a viscerally exciting conclusion that must have brought the house down in live performances.