Piotr Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto op. 35, Swan Lake (Pas de deux, Danse Russe), Sérénade Mélancolique op. 26; Valse-scherzo op. 34, Mélodie (Souvenir d'un lieu cher op. 42); Esther Yoo, violin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy; 1 CD Deutsche Grammophon 4815032; Recording 04 & 09/2016, Release 05/2017 (67'19) – Reviewed by Remy Franck

There is a lot of beautiful playing in the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto, and Vladimir Ashkenazy is certainly a sensitive and affectionate conductor who cares about his young soloist. But in the first movement the orchestra seems to not really catch his feeling. As a consequence, the Philharmonia’s sound is sometimes blunt and lacks elegance, lyricism and nobility. We are left with the impression of ‘must play’ rather than of the ‘joy of music making’. The only magical moment in this movement is the cadenza, where, finally alone, Esther Yoo digs deep into the music.

The second movement is also particularly rewarding, with a very soft and lyrical performance. In the final movement the three partners are well linked and give a sparkling and delicate account of the music.

The rest of the program is made of small show pieces where Esther Yoo is warmly expressive and soulful or, like in the Danse russe, vigorously virtuosic. In the slower compositions she fascinates with a great subtlety of phrasing. In the Sérénade mélancolique her playing is so stunningly delicate, rich in nuances that she is able to elevate the music to a truly overwhelming effect. The Philharmonia is far more responsive here than in the Concerto.


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