This ‘Italian Job’ of a release – only the CBSO is non-native – includes the Violin Concerto by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari written in the early-1940s towards the end of the composer’s life. It’s a four-movement work well-worth getting to know. The opening and aptly-named ‘Fantasia’, full of contrasts, begins with a chilly shimmer (reminiscent of how Prokofiev’s earlier Violin Concerto No.1 opens) and includes a sumptuous melody heard in a number of guises. Fans of Menotti’s Violin Concerto will find much to relish, so too in the courtly, somewhat bittersweet ‘Romanza’, then the fiery and dramatic ‘Improvviso’ (reminding of Wolf-Ferrari’s opera credentials), and this leads to the energetic and toe-tapping Finale (by a head the longest movement) with a hymn-like air entering in due course, so too an expressive cadenza that may be felt to hold proceedings up for too long. This persuasive recording was made when these artists were giving the belated UK premiere and, indeed, applause is retained.
Of the Paganini (also in D-major), Daniele Rustioni gives the lengthy introduction something akin to Rossinian bluffness, and from her first entry Francesca Dego places emphasis on poise and elegance; and if more devilry may be craved, the sense of the bow being an incendiary device on the violin’s strings, no-one can doubt her musicianship or bravura. The outsize cadenza, credited to Emile Sauret and Salvatore Accardo, is further evidence of Dego’s charisma. Bel canto lyricism informs the second movement, here intensely staged; and the Finale, with its indelible tune, is robust yet still sparkles. Throughout, Rustioni provides a lively and detailed accompaniment.
The recording is excellent, the attentive orchestra well in the picture, and Dego is not spot-lit, making her presence felt through force of personality, vibrant tone and vivid love for both Concertos.