Previously this team has given us Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 3 and the Scottish Fantasy. I was smitten. There is much to admire in this account of No 1, not least Jack Liebeck’s aristocratic address and his silvery sound. It’s a big, expressive account of this familiar Concerto, attentively accompanied by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish. Nothing is glib or showy, although some may find the Finale, for all its articulacy, just a little pedestrian. The performers’ focus on the music—serious and searching—is tangible, however; and if at times Liebeck seems balanced too closely, his charismatic playing can take such limelight, and the orchestra is always in the picture, dynamic and detailed. The slow movement is especially eloquent and properly spacious, too, initially confiding and blossoming to an impassioned climax, and with much tenderness in its aftermath.
The Serenade is something of a misnomer of a title, for it is a four-movement work, lasting here 36 minutes. What wonderful music! The slow opening movement is full of heart and atmosphere, and with fluidity in expression and tempo; similarly the third-movement ‘Notturno’ breathes fragrant if dusky air. This is very contented music, written by a composer assured of his style, inventive, cordial and ear-catching. The other movements are quick, an emphatic second in a martial manner that is contrasted with lyrical writing, and a Finale that is an energetic dance and requires much dexterity from the soloist, handsomely delivered by Liebeck. The ultimate couple of minutes offer a cosy homecoming: serenade-like!
Also in A minor is the Romance, deeply-felt and rather lovely, becoming rapturous. Roll on the next release in this much-needed (Bruch-rehabilitating) series, which will contain Violin Concerto No 2. After that, maybe Martyn Brabbins can take a look at Bruch's three Symphonies.