STRAUSS:  Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 8.  Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Flat, Op. 18.
Sarah Chang, violin/Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch/Wolfgang Sawallisch, pianist-conductor.

EMI CLASSICS 56870 (F) (DDD)  TT:  59:07


GOLDMARK:  Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 28.  Prometheus Bound, Op. 38
Sarah Chang, violinist/Gürzenish-Orchester K–lner Philharmoniker/James Conlon, cond.

EMI CLASSICS 56955 (F) (DDD) TT:  54:25

The remarkable young violinist continues her traversal of concerted violin works with two CDS devoted to concertos  far removed from general repertory.  Strauss started work on his only violin concerto when he was but 17 and it took four years to complete it.  It is dedicated to the composer's cousin, Benno Walter, who played the premiere in 1882 with Strauss providing piano accompaniment.  There are three movements, the first opening by a dramatic statement from  the soloist. However,  most of the concerto is of a quality far removed from the composer's finest work.  The concerto ends with a lively Allegretto that might inspire some audience enthusiasm, but overall this is note-spinning on a proficient but amateur level for a major composer.  The lack of cadenzas for the soloist is another deterrent for soloists although it didn't keep Ms. Chang from performing the work in  May 1999 with the Baltimore Symphony, the first time the orchestra had ever performed the work since its inaugural  concert in 1916.  The concert performance was brilliant but I'm sure most of those in the audience wished, as I did, that she was playing something more substantial.  The BSO performance was probably about the same time as this recording was made  - although it is impossible to tell as EMI for some reason doesn't give the recording date.

Far more satisfying for the listener is the CD-mate for the concerto, Strauss's Violin Sonata in E Flat written in 1887, by an assured composer who in the five years following the  violin concerto matured considerably, achieving  success with Aus italien, two horn concertos and a semi-piano concerto called Burlesque. The important piano part  of the Sonata is  superbly played by Strauss specialist Wolfgang Sawallisch whose interest in the composer is Olympian.  He has recorded many of the composer's orchestral works and a version of the violin concerto in which he plays the original piano version of the accompaniment. 

The other CD features a violin concerto of even lesser interest than the Strauss, Karl Goldmark's Concerto in  A Minor, Op. 28, composed in 1877.  Goldmark is best-known for his Rustic Wedding Symphony, a lengthy symphony in five movements, about three of which are mildly diverting — more so when played by Beecham in his historic recording with the Royal Philharmonic—and for his opera The Queen of Sheba.  As Goldmark was a virtuoso performer on the violin, his concerto gives ample opportunity for  display.  But even the efforts of Nathan Milstein, whose early recording has just been issued on Testament, couldn't nurture much interest in this dated music, nor could Itzhak Perlman whose recording with André Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony didn't last very long in the Angel/EMI catalog.  Another recording of the Goldmark has been announced, with Joshua Bell, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The EMI CD is filled out (sort of) with  a lengthy (17:23)  concert overture, Prometheus Bound, also available on Hungaroton's CD of overtures.

Sonic quality of both recordings is excellent and well-balanced.  If you are interested in this music you will not find it elsewhere presented more effectively.  However, these are full-priced CDs and each plays for less than an hour.  Surely at least one more Goldmark overture could have been included on the latter CD, more of Strauss's music for violin and piano or solo piano on the other.

R.E.B. (Feb. 2000)