Today's Classical Music Video

Friday, June 3, 2011

Violinist Dan Zhu and Eschenbach Play Schumann


Christoph Eschenbach spent his early years in the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany and retains a strong affection for it. He is a former music director of the Hamburg-based NDR Symphony and one of its annual guest conductors. He is also music director of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra each summer. This is an elite ensemble of young musicians from all over the world that gives a number of concerts at the festival and tours widely.
The soloist in the Schumann Violin Concerto is Dan Zhu, a Beijing-born violinist who now lives in New York. He plays superbly in this performance with impeccable technique and great expressiveness.
This piece is problematic for both soloists and conductors. It huffs and puffs in the tuttis and meanders incessantly. The violin part seems to get hopelessly stuck in the middle register of the instrument. Yet like so many Schumann works it has moments of great beauty and tenderness. Eschenbach has recorded it with Thomas Zehetmair and recently he and Gidon Kremer played it many times on tour with the Dresden Staatskapelle.
Eschenbach is something of an authority on Schumann's music, having played most of the works for piano solo, the song cycles with the likes of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Peter Schreier and Matthias Goerne, and all the orchestral music. Notice how in this performance he controls the performance with absolutely minimal gestures. Given the amount of rubato in the solo part and the aforementioned preponderance of middle register playing, this is a difficult concerto to accompany. The orchestra must be very disciplined in its soft playing and listen carefully for the frequent tempo changes. From this perspective the Schumann Violin Concerto makes an ideal choice for training an orchestra of young musicians, and Eschenbach is an ideal conductor for this repertoire.
This video includes the first and second movements of the concerto and the beginning of the third. The rest of the piece is also available on YouTube.
Paul E. Robinson

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