Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op 47; Suite, Op 117; Glazunov: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 82; Raymonda, Op 57 (Grand Adagio)

Reviewed on Fri 20 May, 2016

Glazunov's Violin Concerto, cast as three sensitively crafted movements in one, deserves to be played more often than it is. Esther Yoo secures a palpable sense of joie de vivre along the way, not least in the tour de force cadenza.

The Sibelius concerto has served violinists well in their debut recordings: think Viktoria Mullova, Leila Josefowicz (Philips) and Angèle Dubeau (Analekta). By comparison, Esther Yoo’s performance is respectably solid rather than touched by great individuality, yet this does her musicality no disservice. Throughout, the Philharmonia under Ashkenazy’s baton provide no-holes-barred support and their interaction in the third movement is frequently illuminating. Sibelius’s Op 117 Suite lacks the impetuous touch of Tetzlaff (Warner/Erato). Yoo's Glazunov, on the other hand, is a real draw. The brief 'Grand Adagio' from Raymonda is replete with lyricism. The Violin Concerto, cast as three sensitively crafted movements in one, deserves to be played more often than it is. Yoo gets stuck right into its deeply sonorous sound-world, as indeed Dubeau did. Clear intonation, tonal strength and dependable technique ensure that Yoo is commanding throughout. She secures a palpable sense of joie de vivre along the way, not least in the tour de force cadenza. Yoo holds her own against Julia Fischer (PentaTone) and Maxim Vengerov (Teldec), though Hideko Udagawa (Nimbus) is in a class apart. Should you want both concertos, then, Yoo merits serious consideration alongside Dubeau. The recorded sound is excellent, the booklet presentation glossy and serviceable.
–Evan Dickerson