SARAH CHANG, VIOLIN, WITH WOLFGANG SAWALLISCH AND THE BAVARIAN RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA; Richard Strauss: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor, op. 8; Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat major, op. 18 (EMI Classics)***
Sarah Chang is a remarkable violinist. It seems that no matter what she plays, she turns in an exquisite performance every time. And what makes her violin playing so captivating is her youthful, fresh and enthusiastic approach to the music and her complete mastery of her instrument. And all of this is readily evident in the two Strauss works on this album.
The concerto is a very early work. Musically, it's indebted to Max Bruch and Mendelssohn, although some characteristics of the more mature Strauss are occasionally discernible throughout the work. The concerto is very lyrical, with flashes of dramatic flair in the opening "Allegro." The slow movement ("Lento ma non troppo") is somewhat melancholic and serious, but the "Presto" finale is bright and indulgent.
Everything in this concerto is well-proportioned and carefully balanced and laid out. Chang does a wonderful job here, and she gives a delightful performance that highlights the theatrics present in this not too-serious work.
The sonata is more weighty and somber than the concerto. In style it resembles closely the chamber music of Brahms. The second movement ("Andante cantabile") is beautiful, melodic and refined, and the outer movements are powerful and grand in their musical gestures.
And the sonata shows another side of conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, who here accompanies Chang at the piano. Sawallisch is a capable pianist, and they collaborate well on this piece, giving a solid, decisive performance.
SARAH CHANG, VIOLIN, WITH JAMES CONLON AND THE GURZENICH-ORCHESTER KOLNER PHILHARMONIKER; Karl Goldmark: Violin Concerto; Overture from "Prometheus Bound" (EMI Classics) ** 1/2
Sarah Chang is a prolific recording artist, and one of her trademarks is performing works that aren't part of the standard repertoire. That's the case with the Strauss concerto on the preceding CD, and with the Goldmark concerto on this album. Both of these works are almost never heard on the concert stage.
Goldmark's concerto has some delightful moments in it, although it isn't as melodic overall as the Strauss. But then again, the music is heavier and at times ponderous and slightly unwieldy. Despite this, Chang still gives a commendable performance that's thoughtful and intelligent.
Rounding out this CD is an expansive and grandiose performance of Goldmark's overture to "Prometheus Bound." The music in this work is predictable and sometimes trite, but conductor James Conlon comes through and does an admirable job with it.