This account of Elgar’s Violin Concerto gets off to a plodding start for a few seconds, then Vladimir Jurowski jerks the music into life – a mannerism that fails to convince, yet he has obvious sympathy with Elgar’s passions and the need for phrasal flexibility. Enter Nicola Benedetti, just a little too closely balanced, sporting dug-into tone and assured technique, yet the microphone spotlight on her tends to exaggerate some abrasive bowing and screechy high notes. At least Henry Wood Hall has not attracted any artificial additives such as fake reverb, although fortissimos can be edgy and over-bright, and if only when playing quieter Benedetti was a pace or two further back to enhance a sense of innigkeit.
Still, there is plenty of adrenaline in the first movement, a touch of recklessness, too, following which though the Andante lacks the ultimate in repose and inwardness to riposte what has just been heard. In essence does Benedetti probe this score enough, this expansive, secret-enshrining masterpiece? For me, not enough, but she is not superficial either – it’s more that she doesn’t travel into the piece sufficiently – unlike, also LPO, Zukerman & Barenboim (my intro to this work, all those years ago), or, at random, Campoli/Boult, Bean/Groves, Takezawa/Colin Davis, Pine/Litton, and not forgetting the first two complete recordings, previous ones having been abridged, Sammons/Wood (1929) or young Yehudi with the composer conducting (1932).
From Benedetti and Jurowski the Finale fares best, the violinist athletic in terms of virtuosity, the ‘struggle’ of the music well conveyed in what is the longest of the three movements, and if a bit assaultive and glaring at times, there is the welcome confidentiality of the ‘accompanied cadenza’ to anticipate, if not here rendered as innermost as best suits this passage. The striding and majestic closing pages are charged with the sensation of arrival: rather exciting.
There remain three Elgar encores with piano, Petr Limonov, in a change of venue, Studio 1 Air Lyndhurst – a soulful Sospiri, a charming Salut d’amour, and an affecting/sensitive Chanson de nuit.