Tackling Elgar’s Violin Concerto, a mighty peak of the repertoire, takes courage.
Rival versions include recordings by Nigel Kennedy and the youthful Yehudi Menuhin. But Nicola Benedetti is undaunted and brings her own engaging personality, as well as a formidable technique, to bear in a compelling account.
Benedetti consciously downplays the pomp and circumstance — “nobilmente” was a favourite marking of Elgar’s — aiming for something more lyrically expressive. Yet her playing is muscular too, the fiendish display passages thrown off effortlessly.
Under Vladimir Jurowski’s direction, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing is similarly urgent and clearly articulated. Together they produce an interpretation that is impeccably integrated.
Also included are three short items for violin and piano, for which Benedetti is joined by the sensitive Petr Limonov. The best known, Salut d’Amour, was used for the online tutorials offered by Benedetti in April. Her own rendering is trim and unsentimental, shaking off associations of Edwardian tearooms.
The more substantial Chanson de Nuit is given a heartfelt delivery and if Sospiri loses something of the tear-jerking emotional intensity familiar from the orchestral version, it’s nevertheless beautifully played.