Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Winning combination: Mendelssohn's violin concerto & octet from Liza Ferschtman

Liza Ferschtman - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto Octet; Liza Ferschtman, Het Gelders Orkest, Kees Bakels; Challenge Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 12 2017
Star rating: 5.0

A freshness of approach to Mendelsssohn's concerto combines with a fizzing account of the octet

In her recent interview with me the Dutch violinist, Liza Ferschtman explained how her attitude to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto had recently changed and how she had finally decided to record it. And here is the result, performed by Ferschtman with Het Gelders Orkest, conductor Kees Bakels on the Challenge Classics label. The companion work is Mendelssohn's Octet performed live at the Delft Chamber Music Festival in 2016, with Liza Ferschtman, Itamar Zorman, Elina Vähälä, Corina Belcea, Krzysztof Chorzelski, Marc Desmons, Sebastian Klinger and Antoine Lerlin.

What is noticeable from the first notes of the Violin Concerto is the elegance of Ferschtman's violin line, and the chamber-music like intimacy of the performance. This is not strictly HIP, but there is a lightness and transparency both to Ferschtman's stylish playing and to that of the orchestral musicians who are clearly following Ferschtman's lead as to the style of Mendelssohn. The result is very impulsive with lovely sense of detail, and a nice balance between classical elegance and romanticism. Ferschtman continues the the second movement with lovely singing tone, and a shapely sense of line with sensitive accompaniment from the orchestra. The finale is crisp and bright, the performers take it at quite a lick but perform with real engaging character and superb articulation.  Clearly Ferschtman and conductor Kees Bakels managed to really engage with the orchestra, because the whole performance has that live-live sense of immediacy and vitality.

The performance of the octet captures one of those live performances at which you wish you had been present. The opening movement is impulsive, yet not overly fast, but the fine articulation and control of the dynamics, particularly the strong use of accents, makes the whole highly vivid. The performers are not a regular ensemble, but they know each other and have played together and this ensemble really seems to have clicked. The Andante is graceful and delicate, yet with strong dynamic contrasts, so that the piece seems very mobile rather than staying one one volume level.There is zip and crispness to the Scherzo and a vital energy which makes the movement dance. And then the Presto finale rounds things off with so much vigorous energy it positively fizzes.

With no particular axe to grind, Ferschtman really creates lovely chamber music sense of intimacy in the concerto, in a performance which feels fresh and combines with the impulsive energy of the octet to make a winning combination.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) - Violin Concerto Op.64
Felix Mendelssohn - String Octet, Op.20
Liza Ferschtman (violin)
Het Gelders Orkest
Kees Bakels (conductor)
Itamar Zorman (violin)
Elina Vähälä (violin)
Corina Belcea (violin)
Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola)
Marc Desmons (viola)
Sebastian Klinger (cello)
Antoine Lerlin (cello)
Recorded 13-14 June 2016, Concergebouw de Vereeniging, Nijmegen, the Netherlands (Violin Concerto), 28 July 2016, live at the Delft Chamber Music Festival at the Ven der Mandelezaal, De Prinsenkelder, Delft
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