Violinist Arabella Steinbacher’s father knew Paul Hindemith personally, having worked with the composer, as a solo-répétiteur, on his opera Die Harmonie der Welt. Steinbacher thus feels a personal connection to Hindemith’s music – though she admits that his Violin Concerto, like Britten’s, presents extreme physical, as well as musical and technical difficulties, for any player. Yet judging by these superb performances Steinbacher seems to have surmounted them all.

Both were completed in 1939 in self-imposed exile, Hindemith’s in Switzerland, Britten’s in Canada; both stretch tonality and Romantic idioms to breaking point while indulging in a lyrical melodiousness that contrasts strongly with passages of visceral complexity.

Steinbacher and a very much on-form BRSO under the brilliant Vladimir Jurowski present the Britten first, the Spanish and neo-Baroque inflections and shimmering motivic repetitions and transformations exploding in cascades of unabashed virtuosity.

More indebted to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the Hindemith offers a more muscular yet also more cerebral listening experience; Steinbacher and Jurowski respond with a thrilling account, veering between solo, concertante and tutti passages of varying textures and intensities with a confidence and sense of risk that is breathtaking. Pentatone’s detailed, sympathetic recorded sound almost deserves equal billing.

Britten • Hindemith
Violin Concertos
Arabella Steinbacher v, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Pentatone PTC5186625

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