Originally published on March 27
The ethereal opening of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto is well-managed, the balance between Fenella Humphreys and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales is equally judicious (woodwinds carry effortlessly) – courtesy of engineer Dave Rowell (Jan & Feb last year, BBC Hoddinott Hall) – the music simmering with promise under George Vass’s direction. Humphreys’s assumption of the solo part is as tender and confiding as it is impassioned and athletic, and with a charged and dynamic BBCNOW in full aural view, responding to an alert and sympathetic Vass, this is a commendable and recommendable new version of a much-loved work. Maybe though the slow movement is a little unyielding from the soloist and not everyone will like the measured tempo for the Finale – although it respects ideally Sibelius’s ma non tanto marking and allows Vass to tease out detail sometimes obscured.
Equally appetising are Sibelius’s Humoresques (shared between Opuses 87 & 89), six gems of atmosphere and characterisation, of which Aaron Rosand made a yardstick recording many years ago for Vox. Without erasing memories of Rosand’s art, Humphreys plays these miniatures of stature and storytelling imagination with style and affection.
Also included is the romantic and sonorous Celestial Voyage by Nors S. Josephson (born 1942 and who has a Bruckner 9 completion to his credit, recorded on Danacord) – which comes across as a throwback piece; indeed it would pass at times as something just-found by Max Bruch written for Joachim, and nothing wrong with that, although of the piece’s nine minutes too many are occupied by a cadenza.
Resonus RES10277 is released on April 2.