David Milsom
The Strad
March 2017

This disc is Volume 21 in Hyperion's Romantic Violin Concerto series and the third Bruch recording that I have reviewed in this line-up, and it promotes Bruch's music persuasively. I have always found the Second Concerto more difficult to digest than the others, perhaps owing to the experimental Recitativo middle movement (which always feels rather longer than it is). Nonetheless, Jack Liebeck's clear-cut and tightly wound playing helps to keep the declamatory interest, while the virtuosic passages (in which Sarasate so excelled) are delivered with great aplomb.

The Op 77 Adagio appasionato and the extended In memoriam Op 65 were dedicated to Joachim, Sarasate's elder rival, and the more dense and complex textures perhaps reflect Joachim's more scholarly bearing. These, too, are delivered with great consistency, technical accuracy and well-balanced orchestral playing.

A slight disappointment for me was the performance of the Op 84 Konzertstück of 1910—by now dedicated to a Joachim pupil, Willy Hess. In comparison of the Weithaas/NDR Radiophilharmonie recording (reviewed in January 2017), this felt a little leaden—stressing verticality more than Weithaas's beguiling cantilena. This is a matter of taste as much as anything else, and it would be churlish indeed to detract unduly from a superb disc, recorded with customary clarity by Hyperion.