The Strad issue
Nicolas Koeckert (violin), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/José Serebrier
Though Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto remains on the fringes of the concert repertoire, it has fared well both in the quantity and quality of its recordings. This latest one comes from the German–Brazilian violinist Nicolas Koeckert, who finds more lyrical beauty in the first movement than most other performers in the catalogue. I particularly enjoy his relaxed approach to the cadenza and the lazy sensuality he brings to the swaying music that opens the central Andante. The wide mood changes there are well handled, and his unhurried approach makes a perfect foil for the brilliance of the finale. Although the music often sits awkwardly under the fingers, Koeckert fills it with technical brilliance and uncommon clarity of articulation.
The Concerto–Rhapsody came 21 years later in 1961, by which time the composer had become subservient to the Soviet regime, his writing predictable and wanting in the catchy tunes of earlier times. Still, given its outgoing and exciting final section, the work’s neglect is curious. Here, as in the concerto, Koeckert’s left-hand agility is a source of constant delight.
José Serebrier draws a wide dynamic range from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which means an appropriate volume setting takes some finding.