The Strad issue
Thomas Zehetmair (violin/conductor) Northern Sinfonia
Thomas Zehetmair produces a performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto that is pacy, persuasive and above all wonderfully articulate. For all the pyrotechnics, which are handled with ease, this account is almost conversational in places, as Zehetmair elucidates Brahms’s long, discursive lines with an easy rubato. There is plenty of fire, too, right from the opening solo violin passage, which is played with energy and freedom, a statement of intent for the music to come. For although there is luxury here, not least in the warmth of tone, there is no indulgence. In the first movement especially, where others dally, Zehetmair keeps moving and maintains tight musical shape. He has also produced his own cadenza, more an eloquent meditation than a firework display.
The Northern Sinfonia does him proud, with flexible, disciplined playing. This is after all a family affair. Zehetmair sans fiddle is the orchestra’s musical director and the recording was made on their home ground at the Sage Gateshead. The ambience is warm and clear, and the violin is nicely balanced with the orchestra, forward but very much part of the ensemble. The splendid account of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, in its original version, seems almost like a bonus.