VADIMIR Spivakov, the Soviet violinist, is no youngster -- he was born in 1944 -- but
What we have heard from him, though, surely entitles him to such status, and his new recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto is the sort of thing that is bound to make his name easier to remember. He performs with Seiji Ozawa and the Philharmonia Orchestra on a digitally recorded Angel disc, which Ozawa and the orchestra fill out with Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien" (DS-37849).
Spivakov's performance of the Concerto has everything anyone could want for a satisfying realization of a thrice-familiar work. His tone is as handsome as his technique is sure, and he is obviously in love with the music--enough to play the finale without the traditional cuts and, more to the point, to fill every phrase with radiant life.
The tempos throughout the three movements are ideal, the phrasing is unfussily communicative, and everywhere one senses an instinctive balance between enthusiasm and elegance, exuberance and fastidiousness. The integration between soloist and orchestra is exceptional, too, and Ozawa's involvement goes far beyond the level of mere accompaniment: One senses the sort of healthy tension and give-and-take hoped for in the most memorable live performances.
Ozawa's performance of the "Capriccio Italien" is quite a generous encore, and it shows many of the virtues of the Concerto performance--most of all that balance between polish and vivacity. It may be churlish to complain, but I'd have been happier if the disc had been filled out with one or two of Tchaikovsky's shorter pieces for violin and orchestra. In any event, this strikes me, as I suspect it will many others, as the most fetching version of the Concerto now available on records. The sound quality alone must be about the finest yet achieved on this label.
Schubert, of course, did not write concertos, but he did produce three pieces for violin and orchestra. The best known is the Rondo in A major, which actually may be performed with a string quartet (D. 438). There also is a Polonaise in B-flat, which calls for a small orchestra (D. 580), and a Konzertstueck in D major, which is sometimes called a concerto (D. 345). All three have been recorded by Nell Gotkovsky with the English Chamber Orchestra under Jean-Franc,ois Paillard, together with Mozart's Rondo in C major, K. 373 (Musical Heritage Society 4576).
The three Schubert pieces have been recorded twice before in the last few years. Susanne Lautenbacher, with Joerg Faerber and the Wuerttemberg Chamber Orchestra (Turnabout OTV 34729), makes them more appealing than Gidon Kremer with Emil Tchakarov and the LSO (DG 2531.193). The choice now would be between the two female violinists, and there are enough differences in the two to make it interesting.
In general, one might say Lautenbacher goes more for Biedermeier charm, while Gotkovsky opts for all-out brilliance. In the Polonaise, most conspicuously, Lautenbacher takes a very relaxed tempo, and her phrasing is filled with smiles and caresses, while Gotkovsky points the rhythm more sharply and lets the music strut in the way we'd expect in a polonaise. The brighter sound of MHS's Erato recording enhances this impression. The question of fillers is no help: the Mozart Rondo is something that turns up in collections of that composer's concertos and on Turnabout, Faerber, without Lautenbacher, gives us Schubert's engaging but hardly indispensable Five Minuets (D. 89). The important point is that the three pieces for violin and orchestra, while they are not exactly indispensable, are too attractive to ignore; either of these two recordings will yield a great deal of pleasure. My own decision was to stay with Lautenbacher, who seems to conform more closely with my possibly old-fashioned notion of the Schubertian character, but Gotkovsky's liveliness is easy to take, too.