Mendelssohn Violin Concerto - Hi Fi +

Joseph Swensen's lightly knit, sympathetic and quite innovative approach to some of the best-loved classical works began with this Usher Hall, Edinburgh recording in July 2002, although it's worth noting that a closer artistic relationship was formed much earlier with some of these players when they performed chamber music together. That was before Swensen had exchanged his bow for a baton and stood astride the podium. He now only returns as a soloist to play concerto repertoire when the orchestra is one that he has had a long standing association with as a conductor.

His rendition here of the famous E minor Concerto on this Philip Hobbs/Calum Malcolm recording is delivered with the beautifully rich tone of a 1715 Stradivarious. Warming to the task in a lyrical slow movement he gracefully and sensitively reveals the principle melody to us. Elsewhere , playing with considerable bravura he still doesn't indulge in any unnecessary showboating of the kind which can ride roughshod over a work. It makes this a solid and likeable account, one which is unaffected by Swensen's dual role because of that rapport which obviously exists between the soloist conductor and his orchestral rank and file.

For Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture the rolling inevitability of that familiar melody is carried along with an understated degree of affection making this an engaging and involving account which is strong on musicianship, colour and evocative seascape imagery.

The "Scottish" Symphony No 3 inspired by an assembly of bagpipers at Holyrood Palace heard during an 1829 walking tour of the Highlands is heavily scored for strings throughout and on this release we can hear the delightful precision, eloquence and clarity of violins, cellos and violas. Sensitively moulded phrasing, good tempos, delicacy of tone and a highly evocative interpretation sustain the composer's vision for his work. The instrumental detail, securely positioned images and great warmth extended across the soundstage enhance another very likeable SCO rendition.

Hi Fi +
03 May 2004