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One has to take Richard Strauss’ Violin Concerto on its own merits; it was written when he was 17 and later disowned by him. There is nevertheless significant competition in the catalogue: Sarah Chang, Hoelscher (with Kempe) and Sporcl. Arabella Stenbacher is a stunning violinist and carves her own furrow, her 1716 ‘Booth’ Strad singing beautifully under her stewardship.

The Concerto is overtly Romantic; Steinbacher finds a depth of interpretation, the WDR orchestra a fine partner (if not with the lustre of Hoelscher and Kempe’s Dresdeners). The surprises are when hints of mature Strauss peek through the score, while the song-like central Lento chimes well with the Lieder couplings.

The Romanze (originally for cello) is a prolonged plateau of calm, while Steinbacher’s Little Scherzino (originally a piano piece) brings Heitfetz to mind. Zueignung works quite well for anyone that hasn’t heard Jessye Norman, while the Arabella excerpt captures the atmosphere beautifully. Superb recording throughout.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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