It is amazing the unsung or forgotten composers the record label Hyperion has managed to come up with for its Romantic Violin Concerto series. Long-forgotten masters such as Frederic Cliffe and Baron Frédéric d'Erlanger, Joseph Jongen and Sylvio Lazzari, Emil Mlynarski and Aleksander Zarzycki have shown that the art of composing for the violin did not rest entirely with those more celebrated figures who have stood the test of time.
Composers who are now relegated to the periphery of the repertoire give invaluable insight into the general artistic milieu of their day, and establish a helpful cultural context in which to view and listen to the works of the acknowledged greats. However, the Mendelssohns and Elgars of this world have also found their rightful place in the Hyperion series, and now we are back once more on familiar territory with Volume 19, coupling the G minor Violin Concerto No 1 completed by Max Bruch in 1867 together with his Romance Op 42 of 1874 and the Serenade Op 75 of 1899.
Jack Liebeck's Hyperion recording of Bruch's rarely heard Third Concerto, coupled with the popular Scottish Fantasy (CDA68050), was released in 2014 and was greeted with the high praise that this new disc merits.
His tone is richly hued but at the same time supple and capable of finely shaded nuances of timbre. The passion of the playing derives naturally from the fierce intensity that inhabits the themes of the first movement; but then, in the second, Liebeck can summon up the tenderest emotional reveries before harnessing the powerful energy and rhythmic bite that lend the finale such exciting momentum.
Ably supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins, this is a performance of a wellknown concerto that takes nothing for granted.
Instead, in the most sensitive fashion, it allows the music to breathe and blossom, capturing afresh the lyricism and romantic glow that have made it one of the bestloved violin concertos in the entire repertoire.
Bruch never quite succeeded in building on the success he achieved with the First Concerto, but that is not to say that the A minor Romance—originally intended as a concerto first movement—is in any way short of characteristic Bruchian melody and atmosphere. The Serenade is a substantial piece, longer in fact than the concerto, and again establishes its delightful mix of charm and bucolic spirit through Liebeck's remarkable artistry and imagination.