A rather special Brahms concerto

Young soloist makes Brahms' Violin Concerto her own while the VSO give a vigorous performance of Schumann's No. 4

Composer: Brahms, Schumann
Repertoire:  Violin Concerto (Brahms); Symphony No.4 (Schumann)
Artists: Arabella Steinbacher (vln), Vienna SO/ Fabio Luisi
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: ORFEO 752111A

The Music: To many, the Brahms is simply the greatest violin concerto ever composed: an epic journey through myriad passions, with a high-stepping Hungarian finale in honour of its dedicatee, Joseph Joachim. Schumann’s fourth Symphony is perhaps the composer’s finest; and he was Brahms’s mentor and personal champion. The symphony is also dedicated to Joachim.

The Performance: Arabella Steinbacher is a widely admired young soloist and here she shows her finest colours. Hearing her Brahms performance – it was recorded live in Vienna – is rather like reading a great 19th-century novel that whirls between extremes of emotion with unfailing eloquence and lets us experience them all, and the correlation between them, from the inside. Steinbacher makes the piece entirely her own, while maintaining the best stylistic taste. Luisi and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra give the Schumann symphony a centred and vigorous performance, creating a particularly fine, mystical atmosphere during the transition into the last movement.

The Verdict A rather special Brahms concerto, this; the Schumann is less remarkable – and I’d have preferred another concerto with Steinbacher as companion piece to the Brahms – but it’s highly enjoyable.

Want More? Hear Steinbacher’s award-winning Dvořák and Szymanowski concertos with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marek Janowski (Pentatone, PTC 5186353).