The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Rudolf Koelman (violin) Netherlands Symphony Orchestra/Jan Willem de Vriend
Composer: Paganini, Rossini

Rudolf Koelman, one of Heifetz’s last pupils, provides a very persuasive reading of these two well-loved works, while a suitably rumbustious reading of Rossini’s Matilde di Shabran Overture fills this engaging CD.

It is soon obvious that this is going to be a prestigious performance from the manner in which Koelman executes the first phrase of the First Concerto. So many performances blast the last chord with a strident open E-string sound. Koelman avoids this with a superbly rich sonority, which complements his fleetness in such exacting passages as the first-movement cadenzas and the delicacy of his right-hand execution in the outer movements of both works. At times, the vibrato can be a little too saccharine, as in the slow movement of Concerto no.1, but such aesthetic transgressions are rare.

The disc isn’t perfect, however. Some of Koelman’s tenths are rather too wide in the first movement of the First Concerto, and he seems a little accident-prone in the left-hand pizzicato passages of the finale of the Second. The orchestra, while phrasing sensitively and proving both evocative and accurate in the Rossini, is let down by a rather heavy quality to the recording – this helps Koelman’s solo tone, but can make brass and percussion ill-balanced.

Overall though, one of the more enjoyable recent releases of these concertos.

David Milsom