Korngold: Violin Concerto in D major, Op 35; Adams: Violin Concerto

Reviewed on Thu 01 Jun, 2017

Ilya Gringolts’s compelling performance of the Korngold Concerto marries sweetness and wit to a brand of sentiment that never stoops to mere ‘Heifetz-imitation’ – always a temptation in this piece.

Listening to Ilya Gringolts and the Copenhagen Phil tackle the spiralling first movement of Adams’s D major Concerto reminds me more than ever of Berg’s Wozzeck, the closing sequence (‘Ringel, Ringel, Rosenkranz’). Gringolts, a master of light textures and sinewy, fine-spun musical lines, captures the mood of the piece to perfection. True, there are worthy rivals – Leila Josefowicz and the BBC SO with Adams himself conducting (BBC Late Junction), similarly transparent though a tad less imaginative than Gringolts, and the rather more overtly virtuosic Tamsin Waley-Cohen (with Andrew Litton on the rostrum, Signum Classics), a brilliant player with a beguiling tone who, fine though she is, scores lower than Gringolts and Josefowicz for mystery, at least in my book. Gringolts’s coupling is another compelling performance, an account of the Korngold Concerto that marries sweetness and wit to a brand of sentiment that never stoops to mere ‘Heifetz-imitation’ – always a temptation in this piece. His account of the central ‘Romance’ is among the loveliest we’ve had in recent years, and everywhere you sense a keen musical intelligence, minimizing the ‘corn’ while maximising the ‘gold’. The sound is excellent, too, the soloist sensibly aligned with the orchestra rather than eyeballing us from close by.
–Rob Cowan