The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: A highly rewarding coupling of two 20th-century violin concertos
Musicians: Baiba Skride (violin) BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Thierry Fischer
Composer: Stravinsky, Martinu Honegger

The excellent Latvian violinist Baiba Skride turns her hand first to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto on this disc of mid-20th-century treasures. She dances through the elegant, balletic phrases of the Toccata with rich warmth, every phrase coloured to perfection. There are star turns here, too, from bassoon and clarinet, and the whole is aided by the great presence and bloom of the recorded sound, and clarity of the orchestral ensemble. The sweeping, sorrowing phrases of Aria II bristle with intensity, and the final Capriccio sparkles with Skride’s characteristic flair and vivacity.

Thierry Fischer leads the orchestra through incisive and stirring performances of two of Honegger’s symphonic poems, Pacific 231 and Rugby, then Skride returns for Frank Martinursquo;s dreamy Concerto, written in 1951. Her bright, ringing tone drifts over the nervous orchestral wanderings of the opening movement with poise and delicacy, springing to attention for sudden outbursts of dancing brilliance. Again, the clarity and incisiveness of the orchestral playing provides the perfect foil to her heady tone. After the expansive sweep of the middle movement, the finale romances and cajoles. Skride never lets the momentum dip, and achieves a sorrowing bleakness in its searching phrases. A powerful disc – but would we expect anything less from this fine player?

Catherine Nelson