The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Nicola Benedetti (violin) Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jakub Hr?ša
Composer: Tchaikovsky, Bruch

Nicola Benedetti comes of age with a coupling that, in terms of its heartfelt lyricism and intonational purity, can hold its own with the best the catalogue has to offer. Those who thrill to Heifetz’s unique brand of high-tensile virtuosity, or the adrenal surge and emotional urgency of Isaac Stern at white heat, will find little to detain them here. But for those for whom beauty of sound and cantabile lyricism are paramount, Benedetti offers a seamless vision of these old warhorses that is highly compelling.

Typical of Benedetti’s poised, aristocratic approach is the mini-cadenza that sets up the orchestral bridge passage into the slow movement of the Bruch Concerto. Whereas the general tendency is to push breathlessly (and often untidily) towards an exultant climax, Benedetti takes her time, gradually easing her way upwards into the eruptive orchestral textures. The slow movement is pure and chaste, all the more poignant for its lack of emotional hysteria, while the tricky finale is fabulously articulated, exhilarating and blessedly free of belly-buckling bow swipes.

In the Tchaikovsky, Benedetti’s enviable ability to give even the most fleet-fingered staccato notes and multiple stoppings tonal nourishment ensures that nothing ever feels rushed, even in the hell-for-leather coda. Jakub Hr?ša obtains playing of consummate sophistication from the Czech Philharmonic, and the undistractingly natural recording perspective provides the icing on the cake.