The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor op.47, Karelia Suite op.11, Finlandia op.26, Valse triste op.44 no.1, Andante festivo, Valse lyrique op.96a, The Swan of Tuonela op.22 no.2
A mature reading from a young British violinist
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
THE STRAD RECOMMENDS
Jennifer Pike (violin) Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Davis
Chandos CHSA 5134 (hybrid SACD)
This sequence of unashamed Sibelius classics deserves the success it is sure to receive. Aged only 24, Jennifer Pike has an unwavering command of the Concerto and a keen grasp of its elemental power. The long climax that closes the first movement is driven by both Pike and Davis with inexorable momentum. The first theme of the slow movement is played as a huge melodic outpouring, richly vibrant at the lower end and with subtle but telling portamentos. Pike finds a range of colours across the violin’s registers and lovingly voices her double-stops, no matter what the speed. Her gliding harmonics in the finale are both pristinely in tune and deftly elided. Other readings may ooze more personality and character (and also therefore more histrionics) but this is without doubt a gutsy and mature reading.
Andrew Davis points up the exuberant pomp of Finlandia’s central Allegro and the graceful levity of the Valse lyrique, and there’s an epic scale (as well as unsettling menace) in the opening of Finlandia. The march-like first movement of the Karelia Suite is gracefully majestic rather than bombastic, and the Bergen Philharmonic’s strings are radiant in the hymn-like Andante festivo. The recording is first-rate: spacious yet multi-layered in its detail. A disc with popular appeal and unquestionable substance.
Clip: Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor op.47, 2nd movement
From the June 2014 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.