Brown/Marriner: Beethoven Violin Concerto Op. 61 (rec. 1980) - Decca 6.42387
Jacket NM / LP NM
This outstanding LP from Decca (6.42837, German Teldec pressing, blue label, stereo) features Iona Brown's radiant account of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 61, recorded in 1980 at St. John's Smith Square, London, with Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Brown was one of the finest all-around musicians England ever produced and one wishes she had recorded as a solo artist even more. As it is, this deeply impressive rendition of Beethoven's Violin Concerto deserves re-issue on CD.
Wrote the distinguished critic Edward Greenfield in his November 1981 review for The Gramophone:
"There is a raptness and dedication which links this with the two fine versions of this concerto from Kyung Wha Chung (Decca) and AnneSophie Mutter (DG). It would be simplistic to attribute it just to feminine insight, but here too there is an easy breadth to the reading, best appreciated when in the slow movement the third theme emerges for the first time. There Iona Brown plays with a hushed half-tone even gentler than that of those formidable rivals, and that is the more effective when this is a performance, which like the strong, forthright account of Ronald Thomas on CRD, aims at a small-scale authenticity with a smaller band of strings than is usual in the concert hall. On record the actual scale brings no reduction in power, only an extra clarity of inner detail (lower string tremolos for example where every note is clear) and a naturally prominent placing, not an engineered one, for the soloist.
"[Unlike Thomas, who directs the] Sinfonietta from the violin, an amazing achievement, which enhances unity even if it diminishes the individuality, Brown is joined by the other Director of the Academy, Neville Marriner, in the role of conductor. More than Thomas, Brown can be freely expressive, and even if she is not so strongly characterful as Mutter or Chung (or Perlman on HMV) her personality as a soloist is sharply established. Her concerto recordings have contained some remarkable playing (in the work which David Blake wrote for her—available on Argo ZRG922, 3/81—as well as in classical concertos) but this is unmistakably her most powerful achievement on record to date.
"Certainly she stands well in such distinguished company, even if it is quite a lesson to compare simple passage-work and find that even without rhythmic distortions Mutter and Chung capture the ear with individual touches on each turn of the bow, where the evenness of Miss Brown is not so compelling. There are lyrical passages too, where Miss Brown underlines the expressiveness with a hint of squeezing and sliding, hardly noticeable but not so effective as a purer style. Otherwise the trueness of Brown's tone is a delight, not at all edgy as it sometimes has been. Like Mutter and Chung she prefers spacious tempos in the first two movements, but then presents the finale at a dashing tempo, classically elegant, a formidable challenge particularly in the double-stopping. With excellent recorded sound—arguably as fine as the digital sound for the Decca Chung disc— this makes a refreshing addition to a very long list of versions."
This album was produced by Chris Hazell and engineered by Stan Goodall. There are fine liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket by Bernard Jacobson, printed in English, German, and French. The engaging cover photo of Brown and Marriner was taken by Reg Wilson.