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Performing Arts

The Power of the Baton--and Bruckner

*** 1/2 GOLDMARK: Violin Concerto SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto Joshua Bell, violin; Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Sony Classical

** GOLDMARK: Violin Concerto "Prometheus Bound" Overture Sarah Chang, violin; Gurzenich Orchestra Cologne Philharmonic, James Conlon, conductor; EMI Classics

October 15, 2000|MARK SWED

Karl Goldmark's Violin Concerto from 1877 is an almost exact contemporary of, and naturally overshadowed by, the Brahms and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos, two of the greatest essays in the genre. Yet Goldmark's concerto is a very fine and appealing work, conservatively late Romantic with a touch of Mendelssohn's fleetness and melodic inspiration. And it appears to be making a comeback, if the simultaneous release of performances by these young performers is any indication. Bell and Salonen provide an especially convincing case for including the Goldmark among the 19th-century concerto hit list by leaning more in the Mendelssohn direction in a tight, sporty, flawless performance. Chang and Conlon are slower, weightier, more Brahmsian and generally ask too much of the music. Bell and Salonen also have a more substantial companion piece, although in the Sibelius concerto Bell is a more exaggerated player. One wonders whether the violinist felt compelled to plumb Sibelian depths with Salonen at the podium, or if Salonen was responding to Bell, but the result can be variable--overall it is powerfully effective, if occasionally too much. Conlon, on the other hand, remains in Goldmark territory with a useful rarity--a little-known and attractive concert overture, decently played.

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