Maxim Vengerov's returned to the concert hall in 2011 after a four year break to recuperate from injury and devote himself to conducting. This was his first appearance at Wigmore Hall following that resumption of his solo violin career and on the evidence of this performance he has lost little of the magic which had previously seen him widely acknowledged as the greatest violinist in the world. All the old sweetness and fire are in evidence, the rich, sumptuous tone is intact, the intonation is impeccable and the breath-taking agility remains unimpaired. The best evidence for that is in the variations of Op. 47 but the whole programme bespeaks Vengerov's triumphant return to form.
The programme is ideal, bringing together two German showpieces for violin and a wonderful pair of encores, one sparkling and exploiting the violin's upper register, the other capitalising on its darker sonorities. I particularly like the way the mood of the Partita is carried over into the "Kreutzer" by the latter's multiple-stopped introduction which seems to be both Beethoven's deliberate homage to the older master and the harbinger of the arrival of a new voice.
The recording acoustic is a little over resonant for my taste but this was, after all, a live concert in Wigmore Hall and despite the reverberance details such as the clicking of piano keys and the violinist's breathing emerge very clearly. There is no audience noise or applause but no evidence of any subsequent patching. Vengerov's long-time accompanist Itamar Golan is evidently a superb pianist, a worthy partner to a musician whom, on this showing, we may still - or is once again? - call "the world's greatest violinist".