Born in Japan, Ayako Yonetani won the country’s national competition at the age of nine, and later moved to the US to complete her studies with Dorothy DeLay and others. In addition to a solo career, she is professor of violin at the University of Central Florida.
Her honest and unaffected account of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto would give considerable pleasure if encountered in a provincial concert hall, but it falls short of challenging the long list of outstanding performances in an already oversubscribed catalogue of recordings.
I enjoy her handling of the central Adagio, where she avoids the excess of intensity that we often encounter, but the slow introduction to the opening movement’s Allegro moderato fails to generate any sense of anticipation. The whole of the first movement requires a greater sense of strength, though I welcome the spontaneity of her finale. The Slovak orchestra, however, never sounds more than a dutiful partner.
The disc is completed by Bach’s First Partita and the Chaconne from the second, performances where affection for the music is readily communicated to the listener. There is much to like in Yonetani’s simplicity of approach that makes no pretence of period authenticity: her chords are spread with the two lower strings accented, and her vibrato is applied so as to create a warm and generous tone.
This portion of the disc is presented at a much higher volume level than the rather ordinary concerto recording.