The Strad Issue: February 2016
Description: Wonderful playing – even if the programme is back to front
Musicians: Jack Liebeck (violin) BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Composer: Bruch

I am curious about the ordering of this disc (volume 19 in Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series). The cover lists the works in chronological order yet the disc itself is the other way round. Accordingly, one wonders a little about the dramatic ‘curve’ of the contents – from the rhapsodic Serenade via the elegiac Romance to the more traditionally structured (and famous) Violin Concerto.

I must admit, though, that my objections are undermined by the superlatively good playing here. Jack Liebeck, a justly celebrated musician, offers gloriously clear-toned and intelligent renditions – revealed by an exquisitely balanced recording quality that admirably teases out the individual orchestral colours (as in the first movement of the concerto). Liebeck’s superb technique is evident throughout, enlivened by carefully modulated vibrato and appropriate – though at times slightly snatched – portamentos (as in the Serenade’s first movement). There is a lean quality to the playing that only adds to its intensity.

The problem, then, is that the most structurally rigorous music is placed last, after a lot of beautiful but somewhat directionless composition that might leave the ear engorged with loveliness and less inclined to appreciate the higher artistic achievement in the playing itself. But I am doubtless splitting hairs, for this is one of the best-presented discs I have heard for a long time.

David Milsom