Tchaikovsky yoo

The Strad Issue: September 2017
Description: Rock-solid, if stately, interpretation of a violin concerto warhorse
Musicians: Esther Yoo (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Composer: Tchaikovsky
Catalogue Number: Deutsche Grammophon 481 5032

Reactions to this highly accomplished account of the Tchaikovsky Concerto will depend on how you view the piece itself. In recent years the increasing tendency has been to give the music more room to breathe, with tempos generally statelier in feel and with enhanced room for interpretative manoeuvre from the soloist. It would, indeed, be difficult to imagine a more nobly poised take on this glorious score than this, with Esther Yoo sustaining a radiantly golden tone throughout even the most treacherous pyrotechnical terrain, captured in sound of tactile precision. She has the musical presence and personality to captivate the listener’s attention and Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia complement her every caprice with alacrity. All I miss is the electrifying sense of forward momentum generated by the likes of Jascha Heifetz/Fritz Reiner (RCA) and Isaac Stern/Eugene Ormandy (CBS).  Yoo gives similarly commanding accounts of the shorter items, taking the notoriously tricky solos from Swan Lake, with their flying spiccato acrobatics and (at one point) vertigo-inducing rising 10ths, in her stride, alongside heartfelt renderings of the Sérénade mélancolique and Mélodie. A greater sense of abandon would have made all the difference to the final section of the Valse-scherzo, although Yoo’s playing is, in every other respect, virtually flawless.  JULIAN HAYLOCK