It's a brave violinist who takes on Bruch's First Concerto, with so much distinguished competition in the catalogue. Jack Liebeck certainly has the technique and temperament and the recording is of Hyperion's usual clear and wide-ranging quality. Martyn Brabbins doesn't let the music sit down in the first movement, which has energy and direction from all concerned. I would like to hear more variety of tone and rubato in the opening passages, and in the cadenza which paves the way for the transition to the famous Adagio, where there's affection in Liebeck's performance.
He doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, letting the music speak for itself, but I can't help feeling that the orchestra carries the main emotional burden, especially at the movement's climax. The finale is well paced and often exciting, although more weight of sound, even at the expense of beauty of tone, would have captured the uninhibited feeling more thoroughly.
There's less competition in the Serenade, a more unassuming work, and it's almost as if Liebeck isn't looking over his shoulder at the opposition. His playing is freer, more varied in colour and pacing, bringing a real perkiness to the march-like second movement, affection to the charming 'Nocturne', and digging into the strings for the final virtuoso dance. The Romance a putative first movement for an abandoned concerto, is a slight piece, which Liebeck does play beautifully—Bruch never quite managed to recapture the melodic certainty of the first Concerto though.