The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Ligeti: Violin Concerto, Lontano, Atmosphères, San Francisco Polyphony
A sonically impressive account of a masterly violin concerto
Friday, 03 January 2014
Benjamin Schmid (violin) Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu (conductor)
Ondine ODE 1213-2
Conductor Hannu Lintu goes as far as to refer to Ligeti as a Romantic composer in his informative booklet notes to this beautifully delivered release. That’s a perspective he carries forward into his richly resonant readings, which stress the music’s grand architecture and sumptuous orchestration well above its avant-garde experimentation. Lintu’s Lontano shimmers with ever-shifting colours, he highlights the awe-inspiring grandeur of Atmosphères, and his gorgeously shaped San Francisco Polyphony is vibrant and lyrical – all matched by Ondine’s rich, warm, detailed recording. And Lintu’s vision has the ideal Violin Concerto soloist in Benjamin Schmid, who manages to make Ligeti’s strange, mischievous writing sound sweetly expressive, even touching. His clear sense of line leads the ear effortlessly through the second movement’s eerie microtonal textures, complete with natural horns and ocarinas, and he has superb articulation and rhythmic bite in the tricksy opening movement. There’s just a nagging sense that, despite the disc’s sonic splendour and broad vision, some of the music’s magical strangeness has been lost.
From the January 2014 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.