The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Intense performances of two classics of the concerto repertoire
Musicians: Renaud Capuçon (violin) Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Daniel Harding
Composer: Brahms & Berg

Renaud Capuçon with the Vienna Philharmonic (VPO) and Daniel Harding form a rich and heady team. These are muscular, forthright performances, which hide nothing under any bushels. The very beginning of the Brahms suggests spaciousness, and once Capuçon gets past his opening flourishes he plays with a glistening, easy beauty. But it moves inexorably into more dramatic mode, and by the time the soloist leads into the recapitulation he is all drive and excitement. It is a performance of many colours and vivid contrasts, with touches of ferocious passion. The Adagio, too, has an undercurrent of heightened emotion, which wells up as it develops, and the finale is a whirlwind. This is a strong and persuasive account.

There is similar vivid intensity in Berg’s Concerto, an outpouring of expression that sometimes overrides the delicacy and translucency of Berg’s writing, not to mention some of his dynamics. The playing is heart-on-sleeve, but the great depth and subtlety of the work are not always best served, as the artists press ever forward. The meticulous orchestral writing would also benefit from greater clarity and balance; some ropey intonation from the VPO violins doesn’t help either. But Capuçon’s playing is superb throughout. The recorded sound is full.