The rhythmically free and spacious initial statement of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto is a foretaste of the personal and unhurried view of the score from the 22-year-old Australian Niki Vasilakis. The central movement finds her Antonio Guadagnini instrument singing with considerable beauty, and a warming vibrato throughout focuses on the score’s lyric qualities. Certainly the finale is slow and pinpoints clarity rather than the visceral excitement we have come to expect. As a whole it is a reading that brings the spontaneity that is often missing in this much-performed piece, though there’s also the feeling in the orchestral passages of the outer movements that Sebastian
Lang-Lessing would have been happy to move the tempos along at a more conventional pulse.
Vasilakis’s approach to the Mendelssohn is equally unusual, largely viewing it as a concertante score in which the solo line often forms part of the orchestral texture. There is purity in the tone that I much enjoy, and as with the Bruch it is a most affectionate account. The central part of the slow movement does sound rather foursquare, but the music flows with ease and considerable happiness, with the soloist and conductor at one.
But where I really have reservations regarding Vasilakis’s tempos are in Ravel’s Tzigane, for here you never have the feeling that she is throwing caution to the wind with gypsy abandon. It’s altogether too cool and calculated to send blood racing through the veins.
The engineers have resisted the temptation to spotlight the soloist, with a generally pleasing and well-detailed sound quality.