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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unrelated but separately satisfying pair of recordings, 9 Mar. 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Maxim Vengerov (Audio CD)
This is an unusual pair of recordings created by pairing the 'live' Dvorak from 1997 with the studio Elgar from 1995 which had presumably been waiting for something of the right length as a coupling. The fact that the two works were written at about the same time and that Elgar met Dvorak once in Worcester as the justification for pairing them stretches credulity. How much better to simply state that these are two fine works, well played and worth marketing just on that basis.

The performance of the Dvorak is very good indeed and stands comparison with the best of the more modern recordings. These would be Sarah Chang's coupled with the more appropriate and very fine performance of Dvorak's Piano Quintet plus James Ehnes' performance also coupled more appropriately with the Piano Concerto. Both of those latter performances offer a more dancing basic tempo for the final movement which is an undoubted advantage. Vengerov has the advantage of fuller orchestral sound with the NYPO led by an attentive Masur compared to the LSO with Chang and the BBC PO with Ehnes. The slower pace adopted by Vengerov in the last movement robs the music of its dance like nature and risks becoming too lyrically romantic. Fortunately the tight rhythmical control avoids this risk becoming reality, but it is a close thing. The three performances are therefore neck and neck at this point.

The unusual coupling of the Elgar sonata turns out to be a major attraction regardless of the salesmanship of the sleeve notes. This is a very major work by Elgar which has far too few good performances to choose from on disc. Vengerov solves this problem by providing an unusually satisfying reading which is arguably the best yet recorded. This late work and powerful work is also tinged with sadness and regret at Elgar's loss of friendships through death and Vengerov captures its melancholia perfectly.

The sleeve notes give extensive biographic details about Vengerov and Masur but not a word about the excellent pianist, Revital Chachamov, without whom this would probably not have been anywhere near as memorable a performance. This is a shameful omission by Teldec who couldn't even get get her name right. It should be Revital Hachamoff.

None of these fine modern performances comes near the inspirational and idiomatic recording made in the early 60s by Josef Suk and the Czech PO under Karel Ancerl. That clearly remains the benchmark interpretation but now sounds too elderly to compete with these three modern examples of excellence.

I would suggest that all three performances by Vengerov, Sarah Chang and James Ehnes deserve serious consideration from prospective purchasers. The issue may well centre on the choice of couplings which are all well played and recorded on all three discs. The wild card in this respect has to be this one of the Elgar by Vengerov. For me personally, it is what makes this disc special.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest violinist alive today?, 23 Jan. 2011
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Maxim Vengerov (Audio CD)
I was looking to replace my serviceable but unexciting Naxos recording of the Dvorak concerto and am indebted to previous Amazon reviewers for steering me towards this one.

There are a number of extrinsically intriguing things about it: mainly, the fact that we need to view it as all the more precious given that Vengerov peaked so young and early, then essentially retired as a soloist from the concert platform in 2008 and has since given little indication that he will return to performing full programmes - although he has recently been playing encores following his conducting. Secondly, this represents one of his few truly satisfying recordings of the standard - well, standard-ish, as the Dvorak has always been just on the fringes - violin concerto repertoire. Both his Beethoven and Brahms efforts were compromised by listless, slack, wayward conducting from Rostropovich and Barenboim but here Masur provides the required quality of support, despite a rather slower approach to the Finale than is normal. (Is it a kind of perverse response to Vengerov's diabolical facility for playing at speed that prompts this response from his conductors, or it just that he wishes to avoid at all costs seeming "flashy", I wonder?) I could do with just that bit more wild abandon here. Thirdly, we are listening to an artist still in his early twenties and widely acclaimed as simply the best violinist in the world today - and turning to the rendering of the music here I hear nothing to cause me to dispute that.

He is lyrical, tender, poignant and searing by turns. His phrasing is extraordinary, his tone is consistently radiant and he is a master at encompassing fleeting emotions without sounding fragmentary; a Vengerov performance always hangs together coherently.

The Dvorak is a live performance from New York in 1997, although there is nothing about the quality of sound and no intrusions to alert you to this fact beyond the immediacy and sense of occasion which often accrue from live recordings. The gentle, subtle, autumnal Elgar sonata is a studio recording from 1997 and makes a somewhat incongruous bedfellow, the attempt by the author of the insert notes to convince us otherwise notwithstanding. Beyond some tenuous overlapping as musicians and a mutual admiration, it doesn't really signify, and a cynical commentator might suspect mere marketing expediency as the prompting behind this programme - but I don't really mind, as both are superlative performances and I am glad to have them on one disc when Vengerov's artistry is the link. He is wholly at home in Elgar's wistful, melancholic Fach and produces gorgeous, delicate playing, very ably complemented by the excellent Israeli pianist Revital Hachamov (as she spells her name), who shamefully gets no biography or billing - nothing beyond her name in tiny letters.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 24 Feb. 2015
By 
Paul Johnson "Lofty" (Essex UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Maxim Vengerov (Audio CD)
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Maxim Vengerov by Antonín Dvorák (Audio CD - 2001)
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