Nimrod Borenstein’s Violin Concerto is a substantial work cast in four movements. It resembles the style of Prokofiev, Barber, Glass and -dare I say- Szymanowski, but still has a voice of its own.
The outer movements are characterised by a forward momentum and burst with energy, striking timpani always present. But they never sound tiring: underneath the soaring violin themes, the extra presence of the vibraphone creates a mystical, eerie musical landscape. This is a dreamy world full of subtle nuances of exotic nature. The folk-sounding violin subject is impassioned, often with long melodic lines, and requires great stamina from the soloist.
Enter Irmina Trynkos, Greek-Polish violinist extraordinaire. Her playing is stupendous: not only technically impeccable, but also explosive and lyrical (sample the gorgeous inner movements). The piece demands a fully alert orchestra and the Oxford Philharmonic play faultlessly with precise attacks and real pianissimos when needed. Of course, all of this would have been impossible without Vladimir Ashkenazy himself. He has proven many times in the past what a brilliant conductor he is (his Rachmaninov symphonies recordings are a testament to this). The ultimate test here is to handle Borenstein’s super-energetic, complex impetus with the plethora of instrumental contributions that need to be executed in perfect synchronisation. How Ashkenazy manages to do that, and at the same time allow the violin not to be drowned by the constant orchestral shifts, is a wonder.
The album features two additional pieces: The Big Bang and the Creation of the Universe and If you will it, it is no dream. Both follow the composer’s style as illustrated in the Violin Concerto. The former, as the name suggests, follows the creation of the universe and in its structure and thematic development resembles a symphony in three movements, with their own distinctive names: I.Light, II.Peace, III.Adam and Eve. Here you won’t find explosive sounds and loud climaxes as one might expect from its title. On the contrary, it is a subtle, mysterious piece, with a rhythmic drive and rich strings — its orchestration reminding us that of the Violin Concerto.
The final work on the album, If you will it, it is no dream, is entirely different. The forward drive is more obvious here, and the tempi accelerate significantly, with blaring horns and spirited winds. However, the thematic material, although different, resembles the style of the composer’s other works in this album, which is always a good thing.
The album trailer:
In fact, all pieces share the same musical language: lush but not sentimental. All of them are executed to perfection by Trynkos, Ashkenazy and the mighty Oxford Philharmonic and the recorded sound by Chandos is first rate. But above all there is Nimrod Borenstein, the composer himself. Especially with his Violin Concerto, he has created a unique work which is emotionally rewarding without sounding anachronistic. It is an important piece, ideally structured, that is easily accessible and deserves to become part of the core violin concerto repertoire.
Rating: ***** (Gold)
Nimrod Borenstein, Violin Concerto, etc.
Irmina Trynkos (solo violin)
Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor) / Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra