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Lebrecht's Album of the Week

Sensitivity of a high order

Sibelius and Prokofiev: Violin concertos (Decca)

When Janine Jansen is on song, no living violinist comes close. The Dutch virtuoso has been prone to concert cancellations due to bouts of illness and self-doubt, but when she plays as she does on this recording you will forgive every past disappointment and book at once for the next live encounter.

In the Sibelius concerto Jansen is so commanding she makes Heifetz sound effortful. In contrast to most interpreters she ignores icy metaphors of a sub-Arctic composer and teases out warmth from between the crevasses. The opening movement is a wonder in its own right. Only Heifetz, Ida Haendel and Hilary Hahn are in this class of mastery. All the performance misses is a flash of Ivry Gitlis mischief (but there was only one Ivry). Jansen presently tops the Sibelius league table.

Her whispering entry to the first Prokofiev concerto has the intimacy of pillow talk. Prokofiev #1 is the Doctor Zhivago of violin concertos, written during the revolutionary years with a tormented romance in mind. Jansen achieves Pasternak-like poetics, hinting all the while at ominous historic events and ending in brave irresolution. Her dialogue with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra might be deemed intuitive were it not for the powerful involvement of its chief conductor Klaus Mäkelä.

This is the best I have heard from Mäkelä on record. With a febrile soloist, he both anticipates and accommodates her whims, muting the orchestra or letting rip as required. This is sensitivity of a high order, allied to an empathy rare among podium kings. His performance is a parallel masterclass. Don’t miss it.

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