Tanja Becker-Bende, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Garry Walker – The Romantic Violin Concerto Vol. 16 – Busoni & Strauss: Violin Concertos (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:03:01 minutes | 1,08 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Hyperion Records
German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender returns to the Romantic Violin Concerto series having dazzled the critics with her ‘great lyrical force and tremendous sense of drama’ in her recording of the Reger concerto. Here she appears with Hyperion house band the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, in Volume 16: concertos by Busoni and Strauss, each composer’s only example of the genre.
In D major, the key of Beethoven’s and Brahms’s violin concertos, Busoni’s Violin Concerto is clearly intended to continue their lineage—significantly, Busoni wrote cadenzas for both of them—although it never descends into mere imitation. Although it uses quite a large orchestra, it is transparently scored, with plenty of Italianate cantilena for the soloist. Also included is Busoni’s transcription of the Benedictus from Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, which brings the solo violin to the fore, with instrumental obbligati representing the vocal contributions.
The seventeen-year-old Strauss wrote his Violin Concerto in 1881–2, during his final year at the Ludwigsgymnasium. The work was dedicated to Strauss’s violin teacher Benno Walter (1847–1901), concertmaster of the Bavarian Court Orchestra. The work is fairly unknown on the concert platform; as Tully Potter writes in his booklet notes, Tanja Becker-Bender’s interpretation should win it new friends.
Busoni’s Violin Concerto (1896-97), despite the success of the Second Sonata that shortly followed it, has never enjoyed much popularity, either in the concert hall or on disc. While it is an early work, not wholly representative of the mature composer, it is beautifully crafted, full of lyricism and appealing melodies. True, the ideas perhaps lack the distinctive memorability of those in the Second Sonata or the great Piano Concerto of a few years later (as well as the latter’s heavenly length) but the Violin Concerto is nevertheless a work that leaves one the better for having heard it, especially in such a splendidly rendered performance as this from Tanja Becker-Bender, superbly accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the excellent Garry Walker.
Frank Peter Zimmermann set the bar for modern recordings in his Editor’s Choice Sony disc but Becker-Bender’s is its equal. She plays with a sweet tone, sureness of intonation and complete understanding of Busoni’s music, and I would be hard-put to choose one over the other as first choice. Couplings will be the deciding factor: those wanting an all-Busoni programme can safely rest with Zimmermann, who chose the Second Sonata; those who like their concertos and chamber music separate may prefer Becker-Bender, especially as she includes the premiere recording of the Beethoven-Busoni Benedictus from the Missa solemnis.
Becker-Bender’s main coupling is the even earlier, youthful D minor Concerto (1881-2) by this year’s sesquicentennialist, Richard Strauss. She plays it for all its worth though cannot disguise the longueurs of the opening, overlong ‘Allegro’ (though she does make it palatable). Her accounts of the ‘Lento ma non troppo’ and concluding ‘Prestissimo’ are winning. An excellent disc. –Guy Rickards, Gramophone
Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)
Violin Concerto in D major Op 35a
1 Allegro moderato – [8’14]
2 Quasi andante [8’02]
3 Allegro impetuoso [7’12]
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), arr. Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)
4 Benedictus (Movement 4b of Missa solemnis, Op 123) [8’47]
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op 8
5 Allegro [15’04]
6 Lento ma non troppo [6’32]
7 Rondo: Prestissimo [9’11]
Tanja Becker-Bender, violin
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Garry Walker, conductor