A whole disc of full-on Romanticism, such these works represent, could be too much for the nervous system were it not for the lithe plasticity with which Arabella Steinbacher tackles the music. Where it would be easy for playing to become overwrought, such as in the slow movement of the Bruch Concerto, she is if not inappropriately calm and collected at least subtle and persuasive in the way she teases the emotion from the melodic line. Her outer movements are robust but tastefully played.
The Korngold Concerto, too, benefits from her perceptive approach, revealing more subtlety in the emotional ebb and flow than some of her more excitable competitors manage. She’s not afraid to coarsen her tone in the opening movement, but she coaxes some sublime purity from her 1716 ‘Booth’ Stradivari in the slow movement and is rare in bringing out all the music’s humour in the finale.
The Chausson Poème provides a generous filling for this concerto sandwich and again Steinbacher is seductive in her shaping of line and moving in her tapping of emotional depth. The Gulbenkian Orchestra provides generous support and is recorded with unusual transparency – something that emerges as much in the standard stereo mix as in the surround-sound SACD.
From the July 2013 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.