"Five stars go to Cho-Liang Lin's marvelous account of the enchanting Sibelius Violin Concerto, one of the greatest concertos in the violin repertory. Though I remain convinced that no extant version of this piece rivals Oistrakh's recording with Ormandy and the Philadelphia, this is the only candidate for second place, and for all that, it's a more modern reading, sensitively attuned to a modern understanding while remaining utterly true to Sibelius' abundance. The broken octaves of the First Movement that rise and fall in that cataclysmically lyrical passage are so wonderfully phrased by this young Chinese master of music that one almost forgets Oistrakh's perfection, and indeed the spell cast here is an enduring one. The final Movement, which has been described as "a polonaise for polar bears"(!) is perfect as can be. I admire Lin's playing tremendously. His recording of Stravinsky's Duo Concertante and the Italian Suite is an equally fine venture, and one of my favorite recordings. The importance of the Nielsen simply escapes me. It's a unique piece of writing, but one certainly not in the league owned by Sibelius' masterpiece. Salonen seems hooked on Nielsen, though I suspect he has recorded so much of it in part because Nielsen is terribly neglected by many conductors. Ambitious conductors seem often to fancy finding that open niche in which to make a particular mark without taking enormous risks, though that comment is not intended as a put-down of Salonen's overall contribution. He's a conscientious conductor, certainly his collaboration here follows Lin's path with subtlety, and his affinity for contemporary music in particular seems genuine and often fruitful. In any case, his Nielsen recordings don't strike me as arising out of the same ardent love for this composer as do those of Herbert Blomstedt and the SF Symphony, some of which are even interesting. That being said, the Nielsen (and certainly the Sibelius) is enhanced by Lin's magnificent violin -it's a Guarneri, if I recall correctly- which possesses one of the richest and most incumbent sounds of any stringed instrument I've ever heard! If you want to hear magnificent sounding violin music, as well as some of the keenest and most unaffected playing around, get this recording. Cho-Liang Lin's encompassing rendition of Sibelius' monumental Concerto will reward you in spades!"
Superlative readings come in a pair
Daniel Mandel | Philadelphia, PA | 12/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this in 1989 when it first appeared and it remains one of my most frequently played discs. I expect to be able to make the same claim a decade from now.Cho Liang Lin's artistry is breathtaking in both concertos and this disc probably represents the finest stereo recordings available of either work. Heifetz (1959) set the benchmark in the Sibelius and it is possible to argue that Lin matches if not exceeds him - an astonishing statement of a kind rarely made, one is sure. Everything works - the shimmering, quicksilver opening; the unfolding of the first movement's romantic theme; its closing toboggan ride (as I like to think of it); the intense but never stifling intensity of the slow movement and the "polonaise for polar bears" (Donald Tovey) of the finale - and is maintained at an incandescent level of inspiration. The Nielsen is a very different work, inhabiting a different emotional sphere, both more subdued and diffuse. Like much in Nielsen it is emotionally enigmatic - such as the almost jarring transition from first to second subject in the first movement, but Lin believes in it and who can turn down two treasures on one disc? This is one of those rare occasions in which a recording can be unreservedly recommended, whether at full price, half price or double price."
J. Buxton | Waltham, MA United States | 04/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not sure superlatives are enough for this Sibelius performance. This is without a doubt one of the best perfomances of this work ever committed to disc. It has the right amounts of mystery, sentimentality, and technical brilliance. The recorded sound is flawless and Salonen and the Philharmonia are dazzling. If you like this concerto you cannot be without this version. The Nielson was unknown to me, but I enjoyed it very much too and it has motivated me to check out more of Nielson's music. The Penguin Guide gave this disc very high praise and I couldn't agree more."
The Definitive Sibelius Concerto recording
teva_man | United States | 11/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jimmy Lin's recordings, of concerti, sonatas, and showpieces, are some of the best. The guy has never made a bad recording. This (now old) one of the Sibelius, done in 1987, is definitely one of the several best of the many dozens of recordings of it. There have been very few great live performances of the Sibelius. As Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg has said, it IS truly an "ensemble concerto"...and the violin and the orchestra are equal contributors to the whole. It is not easy to seamlessly synchronize the soloist with the orchestra at all times. Not something that can be said about many concertos, which have an "oom pa pa" accompaniment. As great as the Tchaikovsky concerto is, for example, the accompaniment is fairly pedestrian.
So, it would seem natural that the recordings of the Sibelius concerto should be better - you can go back and re-record. Surprisingly, there aren't THAT many *great* recordings of it. But, given that the fiddler is Jimmy Lin, I'm sure the live performance would be equally as good as what's on this CD. Salonen, native Finnish as Sibelius was, understands the piece very well, and guides the orchestra accordingly. It opens quietly, as it should, with an appropriate amount of reservation. The ultra-romantic second theme (which appears twice) in the first movement is played with all the necessary abandonment. The cadenzas are superlative - too many violinists rush through them and don't savor the passages enough. The orchestra shines radiantly with Lin in the second movement - the ascending octaves in the solo violin, accompanied by flute, are great - these are often played too fast, but Lin savors every note. The notoriously difficult third movement can easily get out of control with an inferior orchestra, but once again, Salonen keeps things in line. The timpanist kicks it off well, and then Lin works his usual magic, unfazed by the up-bow double-stops and the tricky string-crossing. A superlative reading.
The Nielsen concerto is not standard literature, and it's not hard to see why. The first movement is nice but the other two movements are pale. I'm not sure why it was included here - although it does give the disc some variety. Better this than the Tchaikovsky or the Mendelssohn or any of the other warhorse concerti so often coupled with the Sibelius. Nevertheless, Lin and Salonen don't disappoint. Lin's intonation is actually better in the Nielsen than it is in the Sibelius, I think!
It's too bad this disc is out of print now - hopefully it will be back in print again sometime, because it definitely has one of the best Sibelius's ever recorded."
A Wonderful Scandinavian Violin Disc!
Paul Rossi | Walla Walla, WA | 06/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Lin/Salonen recording of the Sibelius and Nielsen Violin Concertos has won praises everywhere, and for good reason. First of all, Lin has all the necessary virtuosic acrobatics to play these two very difficult concertos. His low playing is rich and tremulous, while his high playing is sweet and clear.
Lin plays the Sibelius with great warmth and emotion, capturing the dark lyricism of the first movement. The second movement is full of elegiac and nostalgic moods, which Lin plays sensitively. Lin finishes off the third movement with great energy and excitement. Salonen, a masterful interpreter of the music of Nielsen and Grieg, offers outstanding accompaniments in this beautiful concerto.
By the admission of the liner notes, Carl Nielsen's music is more rough-hewn than that of Sibelius. The concerto takes some getting used to, but it is a great work. Lin plays the cadenzas with incredible virtousity and dedication. The concerto rambles at times, but the orchestra brings out the Nielsen idioms very nicely.
This disc is a must for serious violin students and music collectors, alike!
Also recommended: Nielsen: Symphonies 3, 6 (Salonen, Sony) French Violin Sonatas: (Lin/Crossley, Sony)"