This recording, made by Chandos in 2010, presents Elgar's fine concerto in a typically clear and full ranging sound. The violin balance is excellent although at first the violin seems just a little distant or lacking in sheer weight. This balance is actually far more realistic than the 'jumbo' violins we are distressingly treated to by many other companies. It also faithfully reproduces Tasmin Little's finely honed tonal palette which stands in clear contrast to some of the more muscular approaches. Those who have become enamoured of the Menuhin tonal characteristics may initially find this to be a little on the thin side. However that would be an unfortunate and mistaken reaction and one's ear quickly adjusts.
Tasmin Little provides an affectionate view of the many reflective passages in the concerto but never for a moment strays into emotionalism. The faster passages, and especially those involving double stopping at speed, are regularly delivered at speeds greater than is often the case. They are delivered with immaculate intonation and rhythmical control while often accelerating and this adds a considerable excitement to the reading. In many ways there are similarities here with the Kyung Wha Chung playing at the start of her meteoric career and nobody had a word to say about lack of tone or strength in her case. Neither should they in this.
There are, of course, many other fine performances now available as the concerto has now become fully accepted as one of the very greatest of the 20th century violin concertos and with this status has come increasing choice for the collector. I would suggest that Tasmin Little provides a fine and valid alternative version of the concerto to add to the following equally fine performances: I would suggest either of the two Kennedy recordings plus the ones by Ehnes, Gil Shaham, Thomas Zehetmair and, of course, Menuhin (with Boult) as being specially noteworthy and all capable of being considered as one of the very finest.
The fill-ups are not likely to be crucial. The interlude from the Crown of India features an attractive part for solo violin which is pleasant but not essential. Polonia, a late work and a tribute to Poland, could not sound less Polish as an inspiration. This is instead, a full-blown piece of Elgarian pomp and circumstance that I first came across on Boult's record of similar pieces. This is immeasurably finer both as a performance and as recorded sound. I personally like the music but I think it helps to forget the title!
In summary therefore, I would put Tasmin Little's performance on a par with those other performances of distinction as listed above but would not claim it to be the best any more than any of the others. (Can any performance own such a monopoly?). The fill-ups are both well done and include a particularly well delivered Polonia. For anyone interested in the unique program or this particular violinist I would therefore suggest that this disc is worth very serious consideration.
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