Sure she commands the biggest fee of any soloist in classical music. This must make violinists like the criminally-underrated Viktoria Mullova shake her head in wonderment. This is another very bad, very egotistical, very vulgar interpretation from a fiddler who's become too full of herself. She has commented that her interpretations today have little in common with what she was doing early in her career. Indeed! And that's a shame. She made some great recordings back then.
The Tchaikovsky, which has one of the stiffest, most uninspired accompaniments I've ever heard from hubby Andre, is crass--perhaps she's trying to achieve Eduard Hanslick's assessment that the music stinks to the ear. She certainly tries to accomplish that, with an overbearing, thick sound, a moany (not throaty, moany) tone, supersized phrasing even in intimate passages, all sorts of unscripted glissandi, notes held beyond their notation, and theatrical vibrato. This is just bad taste. Her technical prowess is never in doubt (though she seems to doubt it; she seems to be shouting "LISTEN TO WHAT I CAN DO!" every few seconds), but part of what makes a musician great is the ability to divine the composition, so to speak. While to a degree this can be subjective, there are stylistic guidelines that can be gleaned from the score, performance practice, etc., and there comes a point beyond which I am willing to forgive. Just listen to her opening phrasing...the streeeeetching of every third note, the excessively fussy micro-diminuendos and micro-crescendos at every third bar, the distortion of phrases into nonsense, the outright schmaltzy approach that honestly seems to disrespect the composer. The Amazon review states that she incorporates the first movement's cadenza as though it were an integral part of the work. I seriously have to question if the reviewer listened to the disc (sober, at least). This cadenza has about six thousand separate gearshifts when it comes to tempo, dynamics, color, and vibrato, all of which call attention to her technique and nothing more. I cannot escape the feeling lately that she is just using music--*any* music--as a springboard to show off her admittedly amazing but perhaps too self-conscious technical prowess. And I used to be one of her biggest fans.
The Korngold, a wonderful and neglected work, is here schmaltzed to such an extent that it sounds like not just film music (as Korngold was a great film composer) but a parody of film music. Over the opening bars I can practically hear the narration, "I remember the last time I kissed her, on that bridge in Paris, before we said goodbye forever. I can still smell her perfume on my collar, feel her hair against my face. Now she's just a memory, a dame in a distant land..." Again Previn turns in a routine performance, though at least it's not quite as rhythmically stiff. (As Mutter has become more showboaty, he's become blander and blander, until he must be The Dullest Conductor on Earth, even duller than Wolfgang Sawallisch or Kurt Masur [there should be a special award for that; it's not easy].) At least the cadenza here isn't an embarrassment. The sound is muffled for the orchestra, upfront and larger-than-life for our egomaniacal fiddler. For the Tchaikovsky, you want a great recording in modern sound, get Mullova/Ozawa (don't worry, Seiji is in good form here) on Philips. It's coupled with a stunning Sibelius concerto. Another fine modern performance I used to enjoy was Stern/Rostropovich (mostly for Stern), but this has never made it to CD except briefly in Japan. For Korngold, give Heifetz a try. As for this CD, DG should sever her expensive contract and use the dough to hire some fresh talent less burdened with ego. Try Christian Tetzlaff for starters.