Listening once again to the Tchaikovsky Concerto’s impassioned flow of spontaneous invention, it seems more bizarre than ever that it is was this of all pieces that the pro-Brahms Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick chose to pick on as the embodiment of ‘music that stinks in the ear’. Beautifully recorded live in a natural perspective that exchanges the spotlit presence of Stern and Heifetz for a gentle, velvety seductiveness, Susanna Yoko Henkel plays throughout with a phrasal sensitivity, tonal beauty and unrushed sincerity that never allows the work’s pyrotechnical extravagances to get the upper hand.
Whereas in a number of adrenalin-fuelled accounts Tchaikovsky’s patchwork-quilt structure starts to fray around the edges, Henkel, sympathetically supported by Jonathan Darlington and the Duisburg players, segues between the various musical interfaces with effortless poise. Those in search of visceral excitement should perhaps look elsewhere, but Henkel’s majestic virtuosity and supreme elegance is well worth hearing. The Vaughan Williams coupling is also notable for its heartfelt radiance.
From the January 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.