Review of tape: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Alena Baeva & Vadym Kholodenko

My tape also arrived today and Steve has hit the nail on the head. The del Gesu is a wonderful, big sounding instrument. I understand that Alena has it on loan from an anonymous patron. I have a bunch of the top analogue era Mendelssohn concerti and this one is very special. First, a comment on the concerto itself. If you are not a big classical music fan, the Mendelssohn concerto is ranked as one of the very top violin concerti – I would say with the Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

However there are three things that make this recording special. First, it is recorded with a piano playing the orchestral part. To me, that makes hearing the melodic and harmonic lines much easier to hear, albeit different from an orchestra. Second, recording in Ed Pong’s home studio/chamber concert hall makes the space much more intimate, giving the sense, as Steve described it, as sitting in the front row, so the violin and piano are right there. Ed has really gotten the microphone placement and electronics down pat. Of course, third, this is about the only way to hear a great violin concerto played by top artists (Alena Baeva has won three international competitions and Vadym Kholodenko, the pianist, was the 2013 Cliburn winner) recorded today on 15ips 2 track tape.

For classical music aficionados, Alena begins the performance by explaining that the great violinist Ferdinand David, good friend of Mendelssohn, made suggestions to revise the concerto during the six years it took write the concerto. David went on to perform the premiere of the concerto. In 1989 an autographed manuscript of the concerto was discovered in Poland with some differences. It is this 1989 manuscript that Alena plays.

Ed Pong has been doing these recordings for a decade and they have all been solo instruments or small chamber ensembles. Starting last year he has begun to record concerti (the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Angelo Xiang Yu) with piano accompaniment. I look forward to more new concertos recorded by Ed and his great cast of talented performers. I can think of many potential pieces to be heard this way.