Vadim Repin Gets Emotional with Brahms Violin Concerto
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 77; Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 102. Vadim Repin, violin; Truls Mørk, cello. Gewandhaus Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly, cond. (Deutsche Grammophon)
This must be one of the most beautiful recordings of the Brahms Violin Concerto ever made. First, there is Vadim Repin’s tone: flawlessly pure, with a warm glow in the low register, a celestial shimmer in the high one. But what makes it unique is its intense personal expressiveness, proving that there is no such thing as a “beautiful” tone unless it reflects the player’s emotional response to the music. In this grand, expansive performance, Repin shows his lifelong love for the work in the way he caresses details, shapes phrases, and gives every note life and significance, even in the running passages. Refuting the half-serious jest about the concerto being a battle between soloist and orchestra, Repin and Chailly create a true collaboration of equals, each able to take either a leading or supporting role.
The recorded balance, both between them and within the orchestra, is superb, bringing out and interweaving melodic strands in a seamless, colorful tapestry.
Repin also disproves the assertion that Brahms wrote the concerto against rather than for the violin, tossing off the most formidable technical feats as easily as throwing snowballs. Occasionally, he lapses into exaggeration from sheer romanticism or exuberance, but the feeling is so genuine that it hardly matters. The rarely performed Heifetz cadenza consists mostly of quotes from the concerto connected by very poor modulations.
Pairing the two Brahms concertos is tempting, but the Violin Concerto shows up the Double Concerto’s comparative shortcomings: its less-cohesive structure, less-inspired melodies, less-idiomatic instrumental writing. The playing, however, is no less impressive, though Mørk’s tone is a bit rough and he tends to get effusive and slide too much. Intonation and ensemble are impeccable, the give-and-take and cumulative buildups work perfectly. Both players avoid false accents in the tricky finale opening. After a majestic, austere beginning, the pervasive mood is expansive, mellow, nostalgic.
Unfortunately, the recorded balance makes the soloists sound soft and distant.