Menuhin’s interpretation lends a spiritual quality that engulfs the listener
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Leonard Bernstein
Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn op.56
Brahms’s ability to take the theme of another composer and turn it into something so intimate yet grand is incredible. This recording was made in the golden era between Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic. The string sound is unmatched and they provide what Brahms requires: a very flexible and Viennese touch. Vienna has been my home since the age of three and listening to this recording always reminds me of the city.
Anne-Sophie Mutter/London Symphony Orchestra/ Krzysztof Penderecki
Penderecki Violin Concerto no.2 ‘Metamorphosen’
This recording is a favourite because when it comes to interpreting 20th-century composers, Mutter is able to find the balance between respecting the composer’s wishes and conveying her own ideas. I respect her ability to walk that fine line and it’s especially difficult given that Penderecki’s instructions to the player are extremely detailed.
Leningrad is my favourite song. My parents met there and the city symbolises so much for me. I studied at the Vienna Conservatoire with Billy Joel’s brother, Alexander, and through him, Billy and I became friends. I respect Billy’s depth as a musician – within two seconds you know a song is his. In Leningrad Billy illustrates his ability to make a studio recording sound like the live experience. His timing and timbre embrace the listener, making you feel like he’s right in front of you.
Bach Goldberg Variations (1955 version)
It was a profound time for me when I recorded a string trio arrangement of this work. While learning it I realised it was a mathematical masterwork as well as touching, romantic and modern all at once. When Gould plays Bach you can’t resist getting deeper into it. You are inspired by both the composer and the performer. It’s wonderful to have references like this since classical music is about going forwards while looking backwards.
Yehudi Menuhin/New Philharmonia Orchestra/ Antal Doráti
Bartók Viola Concerto
The second movement is beautiful. It differs from what we know of the folkloric and motivic Bartók – it has a religious and otherworldly quality unlike anything else he wrote. Menuhin’s interpretation lends this work a spiritual quality that engulfs the listener. The middle movement, along with his phrasing and dedication to rhythmic structure in the outer movements, shows Menuhin at his very best.
Photo: Julia Wesely