By Steven Ritter
October 19, 2016
A great bargain to have the complete violin and orchestra pieces on one disc!
TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade melancolique, Op. 26; Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34; Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35; Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42 – Jennifer Koh, violin/ Odense SO/ Alexander Vedernikov – Cedille CDR 90000 166, 74:20 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Jennifer Koh is a terrific violinist. Since her debut twenty-odd years ago, she has gradually ascended in the public and critical eye as one of the most astute, intelligent, and boldly provocative artists around. Her contract with Cedille has been a godsend, as they have allowed her a lot of latitude in putting together thought-provoking and cleverly significant programs. Any one of them is rewarding, so you can hardly go wrong by simply tossing a coin and picking.
Here she returns to some of her roots, telling us in the notes that Tchaikovsky has been part and parcel of her musical existence since a very early age, and her relationship with conductor Alexander Vedernikov is also time-tested and long-standing. Tchaikovsky had only a short relationship himself with the violin, all of his works for the instrument being completed within a three-year time span. None of them, including the popular but somewhat superficial Violin Concerto rates high on his “greatest hits” list even though it is a popular audience piece. But Koh makes a fine case for it here, even if Nathan Milstein, Heifetz, and Anne-Sophie Mutter make a better case, largely because of a more sumptuous approach. It’s the rest of this very convenient program that cements the case, especially Souvenir d’un lieu cher (Memory of a beloved place) with the best-known first movement “Meditation” originally the slow movement for the Violin Concerto but discarded. All three movements together make for a significant and important work of nearly twenty minutes that really should be heard more often.
The other two pieces are fairly well-known among violin aficionados, and Koh plays them to stunning effect, her gorgeous tone radiantly effective in conveying what is always the essence of Tchaikovsky—his melodies. The Odense orchestra is not on par with the greatest bands that have played these pieces, but they are fully professional, well-drilled, and emotionally committed to the task at hand, with gracious sound allotted to each work. An easy recommendation that might have you trading away some of your other versions.
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