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Vadim Repin does Brahms: a review

This is a review of: Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Concerto for Violin and Cello; Vadim Repin (Violin), Truls Mork (Cello), Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Riccardo Chailly

After the wonderful recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and “Kreutzer” Sonata with the Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, Russian violin player Vadim Repin has produced another wonderful CD. This time, he was joined by Truls Mork and the equally wonderful Gewandhausorchester under Riccardo Chailly – who previously was the director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

Brahms’ Violin Concerto coincidentally premiered in Leipzig in January 1879 by Joseph Joachim. The Violin Concerto was in fact devoted to Joachim. It is believed that the Violin Concerto was the most technically demanding work by Brahms up to that point, due to a wide variation of rhythms and frequent interruption by the orchestra. The other work, the Concerto for Violin and Cello was written in the summer of 1887. It was first performed in Köln in October 1887. Brahms actually composed it in hopes of repairing the friendship between Joachim and Robert Hausmann.

In terms of difficulty, the Concerto for Violin and Cello is ultimately more challenging, because it demands smooth cooperation between the violin and cello players. Furthermore, the soloists and orchestra have to achieve a higher level of collaboration in order to avoid music from different sections being mixed together and making the entire thing blur.

Bravo for Repin. He plays the especially difficult first movement with calm, carefulness and precision. He is able to engage the listener through revealing his passion and commitment in the soloist section. In the high keynote part, he demonstrates his excellent control of the string, thus performing the loud section with a particularly wonderful aesthetic. Equally terrific is the last movement. Repin executes his mastery here to prevent the fast, loud movement from turning into an uncontrolled one.

Mork is equally superb on the Concerto for Violin and Cello. His precise interpretation of the music helps avert the common problem of the blending the pitch of the violin and cello as they take up the exposition of leading the woodwind section during the second half of the first movement. In the third movement, Mork and Repin do a wonderful job of creating a fun, relaxed environment for the orchestra to then enter, further making this intense work a friendly listen.

The orchestra accompanies the soloists beautifully – especially beautiful for a first collaboration. For instance, in the second movement of the Violin Concerto, the orchestra successfully creates a warning atmosphere and then allows Repin to enter into the music flawlessly. The orchestra’s brilliant performance in the slow second movements of both Brahms’s works successfully bridges the first and third movements.

After doing a superb job with Beethoven, Repin has further solidified his reputation through Brahms, and one hopes that there is much more terrific collaborative effort to come.

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Jonathan Mok

Jonathan Mok lives in Hong Kong. He reviews music and literature. Some of his chief interests include American and Middle Eastern politics.