The Strad issue
Passionate accounts of two modern violin concertos
Elina Vähälä (violin) Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Jaakko Kuusisto
Jaakko Kuusisto originally conceived his Violin Concerto for himself, but then handed it over, and dedicated it, to Elina Vähälä. It follows a fairly conventional three-movement course, but it starts with the cadenza, which Vähälä negotiates with superb control, from cool beginnings to the dramatic arrival of the orchestra. This is a lush, almost Romantic work, which Vähälä responds to with playing of striking melodic beauty, full of personality and authority, and with complete mastery of its considerable technical demands. She is wonderful in the first part of the central Lento, wending her way slowly amid the luminous wind writing before the mood changes radically and she embarks on a passionate diatribe in octaves. She launches into the finale in a driving, moto perpetuo swirl.
Corigliano’s ‘Red Violin’ Concerto emerged from his music for the film The Red Violin – the extended opening chaconne came first, and he added the rest later. Vähälä is splendid in that opening movement, with its extended discursive paragraphs and emotional range, all steadily unfolded (although at just over 14 minutes she has still knocked two minutes off Joshua Bell’s Sony recording). She brings a gossamer touch to the quicksilver scherzo, plangent warmth and beauty to the Andante and wild energy to the finale. The orchestra is terrific throughout, revelling in the vivid colours of both concertos and in the opening work, Leika, with excellent, spacious recorded sound.