Premiered in, or associated with Spain, Britten’s Violin Concerto and the Second of Prokofiev make an apt pairing.
Augustin Hadelich sets the Spanish scene with the high-wire act that is Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, hits from Bizet’s opera stolen from singers as a gift for virtuoso violinists, which Hadelich certainly is, wonderfully musical too, and he is partnered by Cristian Măcelaru and the WDR Orchestra (Cologne) in a detailed manner that elevates them as more than bystanders while Hadelich showcases his skills.
Similarly in the Concertos, conductor and orchestra en rapport with their soloist, whether spikiness or heartfelt lyricism in the Prokofiev (1935, Madrid), for which Hadelich underlines the volatility, the danger, present in the first movement, answered by intense songfulness, the latter continued into the melodious middle movement, sensitively accompanied yet always with the orchestra tangibly in the picture, and the Finale (with castanets) dances along with barbed rhythms.
In this hot-blooded performance, Britten’s Violin Concerto (1941, New York) comes across as sad for, and protesting against, the Spanish Civil War (1936-38), music of lament and rage, which Hadelich and company present vividly and with innermost feelings: the second movement is let off the leash, and also weeps, before an emotional climax cues a cadenza (integral to the whole) and leads into the expansive ‘Passacaglia’ final movement, deep, consoling, flaring, cathartic, uncertain … compelling listening.
By way of a solo encore, Hadelich ends with Ruggiero Ricci’s transcription of Tárrega’s guitar gem, Recuerdos de la Alhambra; very effective, even without the tremolo. Warner Classics 0190296310768.