Elgar completed his Violin Concerto in B Minor Op. 61 in 1910. It received its first performance the same year, by the violinist for whom it was written, the great Fritz Kreisler, with the composer conducting the Philharmonic Society. Alas, Kreisler and Elgar never recorded the concerto together (in 1932 Elgar made a recording with the London Symphony Orchestra and a teenage Yehudi Menuhin as soloist, which remains an essential historical document).
Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. Photo © Lars Gundersen
How wonderful, then, to be able to hear this concerto performed using the same violin Kreisler premiered it on, the 1741 Guarneri del Gesù – otherwise known as the “Ex-Kreisler Guarnerius”. The violin is on loan from the Royal Danish Theatre to Danish violinist and conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. Hearing his Saturday-night performance at the Perth Concert Hall, it was hard to imagine it being in better hands.
Likewise, the concerto itself, with Szeps-Znaider, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor Asher Fisch zeroing in on the work’s qualities of intimacy and exuberance, of yearning and passion, with tremendous conviction and surety of vision. If Elgar’s arguably more popular Cello Concerto opens with a famous...