Belkin: Sibelius Violin Concerto Op. 47, etc. (rec. 1978) - Decca SXL 6953
Jacket EX / LP NM
This superb LP from Decca (SXL 6953, English pressing, black/silver FFSS NB label, stereo) features Boris Belkin’s magnificent account of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 47, recorded in the fabled acoustics of London’s Kingsway Hall on 24 April 1978. Filling out the disc, and set down in the same venue, are these same forces’ readings of Sibelius’ Two Serious Melodies Op. 77 and Two Serenades Op. 69 (producer: Ray Minshull / engineer: Kenneth Wilkinson).
Wrote the superb critic and editor Rob Barnett for MusicWeb-International:
“Competition for the Violin Concerto is ferocious. My reference disc is the BMG-Melodiya of Oistrakh with Rozhdestvenky, fruitily voluptuous, taut and hyper-romantic - the resolution of many opposites. Other good versions include Mullova (Philips) and Haendel (EMI Classics), Also I have been greatly taken with Julian Rachlin's Sony version heard by me as part of the Sony Pittsburgh/Maazel set of the symphonies. This can be had separately on SONY SK53272; as of March 2003 this could be ordered from Berkshire Record Outlet at $5.99.
“I have been unduly dismissive of Belkin's reading in the past. His highly coloured and vulnerable vibrato is not quite as exaggerated as I had remembered. This is an exciting and sensitively 'painted' reading and can be compared with Tossy Spivakovsky's and Tauno Hannikainen's on Everest. It also emphasises the wide dynamic range - one can hardly hear the first few bars - I had to remind myself that this is in fact a late analogue recording. The Opp. 69 and 77 pieces, which are mostly rather wan soliloquies in the manner of the Stenhammar Serenade, are a valuable anhang to the Concerto. The pity is that Belkin did not also add the Humoresques whose quintessentially nostalgic and chilly beauty are heard to the best effect in the hands of Aaron Rosand (Vox).”
Some of Belkin's fine Decca discography is now appearing on Australian Eloquence CDs. A pity that Belkin did not record more – he plays with fire and fantasy – this is a superb album.
Incidentally, the cover photos of Belkin and Ashkenazy were taken by Christina Burton. There are excellent liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket by Max Harrison, provided in German, English, and French.