It’s good to see the Scandinavian company BIS persevering with the high-end SACD format at a time when the majority of music buyers no longer seem to care about quality audio reproduction at all. This disc has three audio layers to choose from: SACD Stereo, SACD Surround and standard-CD. When played through a good system boasting SACD reproduction, it shows just what the format is capable of. The sound here is simply superb. The violin has its natural warmth with plenty of bite, and the detail in the orchestral sound is exemplary, revealing layer on layer.

Of course, that would be worthless if we were listening to a mundane performance. This is anything but. Soloist Vadim Gluzman and the Bergen Philharmonic under Andrew Litton give a committed interpretation of Bruch’s First Violin Concerto, and we can understand from this fine
account why the success of this work overshadowed the rest of the composer’s career. 

The Romance for Violin and Orchestra is a pleasant enough piece, much like a stocking-filler at Christmas. But the rarely heard String Quartet in A minor is a revelation. Written in 1918 when the composer was 80 and near the end of his life, this is a vigourous, even youthful work. At the time it might have sounded old-fashioned. Now we can hear it as a great relic of Bruch’s 19th-century sensibilities; a considerable success on its own terms. BIS and the artists have done these works proud.

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