The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A promising account of the Brahms Concerto marred by a lugubrious start
Musicians: Arabella Steinbacher (violin) Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Fabio Luisi
Composer: Brahms, Schumann

Here is yet another Brahms Concerto adhering to a totally spurious, inauthentic tradition of dragging out the opening movement ad nauseam. By the time the soloist enters, Fabio Luisi has dissipated any energy that he built up in the tutti; and, as Arabella Steinbacher noodles about purposelessly, we take over 19 minutes to get to the start of the Joachim cadenza.

This is a shame, as Steinbacher plays gloriously, with a pure, lustrous tone much more to my taste than that of Isabelle Faust, a recent rather faster entrant (Harmonia Mundi, reviewed last month). She skates over the surface a bit in the Adagio but gets more involved at the climax and ends sensitively – the oboist is first-rate. The finale, very well played, is taken at a reasonable tempo.

The exciting performance of Schumann’s Fourth, also taped live, has already appeared in a complete set. The recordings, from different venues, are both fine.