JOACHIM: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 11 "In the Hungarian Style." BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op 77.
Rachel Barton, violinist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Car los Kalmar, cond.
CEDILLE 900000 068 (F) (DDD) TT: 47:15 & 43:20

American violinist Rachel Barton already has made a number of fine recordings for the Cedille label including CDs devoted to Handel sonatas, concertos by White, Saint-Georges, Coleridge-Taylor and Meude-Monpas, duos for violin and cello, and a collection of virtuoso show-pieces. Now we have this enterprising CD that contains two of the most demanding violin concertos, an imaginative coupling that offers the Brahms concerto, composed with the assistance of Joseph Joachim, as well as the latter's second concerto. Brahms and Joachim were close friends since their first meeting in 1853, and it was through this friendship Brahms met Robert Schumann. The following year Joachim began composition of his Concerto No. 2 and worked on it for almost six years before its premiere in 1860. It was dedicated to Brahms who on several occasions conducted performances with the composer as soloist. Joachim's concerto is a dazzling, dramatic and one of the longest (47:15) concertos for the instrument. It has been called by some the most difficult work in the violinists' repertory. It is surprising that major violinists of the past haven't championed it; the only other recording currently available is by Aaron Rosand on Vox.

Brahms began composing his violin concerto in 1878 and collaborated with Joachim closely, asking him to "correct it." He also dedicated it to his great friend. Originally the concerto had two middle movements (like the second piano concerto Brahms began composing about the same time), but these were removed and replaced with a new Adagio. Apparently Brahms incorporated most of Joachim's changes in the orchestral part but, surprisingly, considerably fewer of his revisions to the solo violin part. Joachim composed the first movement cadenza; in this recording as an appendix Barton includes her own cadenza as an alternate which easily can be programmed into the performance.

Rachel Barton's performances of both works are elegant, technically secure and beautiful in tone. Needless to say, the Chicago Symphony offers superb support under Carlos Kalmar who is principal conductor of Chicago's Grant Park Orchestra and music director of the Oregon Symphony. James Ginsburg produced the recording which was made July 2 and 3, 2002 in Orchestra Hall. Ginsburg and his team have provided splendid, well-balanced, rich sound. Cedille is to be commended for this issue, which offers splendid performances of two major concertos, two CDs for the price of one. Highly Recommended!

R.E.B. (October 2003)