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4.6 out of 5 stars
Brahms: Violin Concerto
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2012
I can't recall where I read it but Nigel Kennedy apparently disliked this recording. For a simple listener like me, that's hard to understand but then, what do I know? I used to date a soprano and I remember how distraught she once was about her performance in a Vivaldi recital despite the universally ecstatic audience response. Artists are often their own worst critics. This recording dates from when Kennedy was at the height of his fame and I presume he had the best of everything at his disposal - recording personnel, equipment, acoustic environment, as well as lots of time with conductor and orchestra, the sum of which seems apparent to me in the technical quality of the final product. I love how clearly you can here Kennedy's breathing and his fingertips tap-tapping on the neck of his instrument during the 1st movement cadenza. (As a side note, I personally really like Kennedy's cadenza from this period, compared with the standard Joachim cadenza).

I can only assume Kennedy's dissatisfaction related to his interpretation of the piece, the nuanced execution which to any mortal listener may sound brilliant but which to the artist, climbing an ever flattening curve towards the unattainable summit of perfection, is beneath his aspirations. All I know is that, for me, the listening experience of this recording is sublime.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2004
In a word, this recording is breathtaking. Brahms' genius is superbly displayed in the long first movement, in which he gave himself all the space he needed to develop the theme of the piece to such an extent that the result is a completely fulfilling, emotional and evocative whole. The melody is simple and effective, the orchstration exquisite. The second and inevitably slow second movement, whilst undeniably graceful, fails to measure up to the splendour of the first. It is tranquil, but not especially moody. The final movement of the piece is a lively show-piece for the soloist, and perhaps the sense of festivity rather detracts from the dramatic feeling of the piece thus far. Overall the concerto lacks continuity; the second movement is quite disparate from the first, and the third even more so. But what endures is the quality of the music; at points it is heartbrakingly beautiful, at others absorbing and fun. To give it anything but five stars would be a crime.
Kennedy's playing is vigorous and dazzling; one would expect nothing less. He lends the same freshness to this recording as he did to Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and in my opinion this is to the benefit of the piece. However, whilst imaginative he remains tastefully economic with his flare, perceptibly in the third movement. It feels that Kennedy wishes to deliver the music rather than a demonstration of his finesse with the fiddle. I for one find this performance much more palatable than, for instance, that of Maxim Vengerov, for precisely this reason.
Overall, this is a recording not to be missing from anyone's collection. Even if you own a different version, I would recommend buying this one also simply because of its intriguing perspective on a wonderful masterpiece. The music has something to offer anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2014
Tastes differ, of course, but if I were asked to name a violin concerto recording that had the solo instrument and the orchestra in ideal balance, I would name this one, without hesitation. EMI in 1990 did Tennstedt and Kennedy proud, whatever you might think of the interpretation. In the first movement, violin and orchestra share thematic material but seem to be assertive in their respective ways; in the other two movements, they seem more in conversation, and the effect is very engaging. Kennedy's playing here seems to divide opinion, but it seems lovely to me. He takes his time, but nothing is dull -- in the long first movement, he enables us to savor the cadenza-like moments, the lyrical interludes, and the more positively attacked sections, and he and Tennstedt manage the transitions between them very convincingly. That first movement is a drama in itself, full of variety in their hands. The second and third movements are expressively less complex, but both are beautifully played -- the lullaby-like second movement is like an intimate conversation between violin and orchestra, and in the third, Kennedy has fun with the bells and whistles: it's highly enjoyable. I should add that I found Kennedy's own first-movement cadenza perfectly fine, and played with lovely tone quality. This concerto is a great work, and there's more than one way to do it. Like Salerno-Sonnenberg, Kennedy is on the slow side (though more varied in expression than S-S), and it works just fine. Really good musicians lead you in to a willingness to dwell in their sound-worlds, and Kennedy and Tennstedt do that here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2013
Nigel Kennedy has, in my view, a tremendous ability to bring out nuances in a piece that others haven't. This makes the Concerto come to life in a way that resonates with the feelings I imagine Brahms intended to convey. I will enjoy this recording for some time to come, I am sure.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2010
I may not be the most knowledgable person to judge but I consider this CD to be a truly magnificent piece of work. The exquisite playing of Kennedy together with the brilliance of Tennssted make this an unmissable listening experience. I have bought no fewer than six of these CD's as gifts for my friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2013
Heard this in full on the radio and knew I had to add to my collection. although not so keen on Kennedy as a person, you can't fault his playing and the actual piece is just so.
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on 18 June 2013
I have several recordings of this concerto but this is the best so far. Kennedy plays his own cadenzas which give a rich and balanced flavour to the music and the whole piece is conducted beautifully.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2009
This is a fantastic CD. The performance is powerful, dramatic and lyrical, and the music is bold and magnificent. A strongly recommended CD.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 14 October 2014
Still sounds as fresh as twenty years ago. I'd seen Kennedy perform this on some TV show years back and wasn't disappointed. His interpretation of Brahms is always interesting and full of character.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2014
She loves it, she has other Nigel Kennedy CD's and rates him very highly. This is a good performance, excellent
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