Is it just me, or does it appear as though certain composers go in and out of vogue every few years? It seems like twenty or thirty years ago, everybody was recording Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole. Then, either I didn't notice or nobody appeared interested in the man or his music. OK, you're right; it's probably just me. In any case, this new Warner Classics disc from Canadian violinist Alexandre Da Costa pleased me and brought back a ton of old memories.
The accompanying booklet note advises that a listener first hear a few other recordings of the work before trying Da Costa's interpretation, suggesting that the listener will find Da Costa's version much less hurried, much less fierce. So I did just that: I put on Yan Pascal Tortelier's EMI recording with Louis Fremaux and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and listened to the opening Allegro non troppo. Tortelier was, indeed, faster and more overtly exciting. However, I also noticed that Da Costa was remarkably versatile, both in the lyrical as well as the more bravura passages. He takes his time developing the music, providing plenty of color as well as a deep sense of melancholy. You'll find little that is in the light French tradition here, even though Lalo was French. Da Costa's rendition is thoroughly Spanish inflected, filled with strong emotions and high drama.
Da Costa says, again in the booklet note, that "a conductor once told me, 'If you play fast and you accelerate, it just shows fear. If you play slower and hold your tempo, it shows strength.' That's the key for me when I play Spanish music." This style is particularly evident in the second-movement Scherzando, which comes off beautifully and is probably the most Spanish-sounding music on the disc.
In terms of sound, the orchestra is a tad close, but the violin sounds especially natural, with good bite and resonance. Compared to the EMI-Tortelier recording I had on hand, however, the Warner sonics could use more depth and greater warmth.
John J. Puccio