This is something unusual — a recording series spread across different labels. Violinist Solmiya Ivakhiv and pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi wanted to record the double concertos of Haydn and Mendelssohn.
While preparing, they discovered two other neglected works. Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a contemporary of Haydn, had also written a double concerto for violin and piano. And Mendelssohn at age 13 had composed a seldom-performed violin concerto in D major.
There was enough material for two CDs. The Mendelssohn works were released on Brilliant Classics. The paired Haydn and Hummel concertos were released on Centaur.
Theodor Kuchar conducts the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra on both releases. As expected, the sound quality is fairly consistent across the two releases, as are the performances.
Ivakhiv and Pompa-Baldi bring the right measure of bravado and sensitivity to these works. These two artists seem to speak the same language, making their exchanges all the more engaging. Both play with crystalline clarity that is well-suited to these works.
Haydn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra in F major is probably the best-known of the four works. Ivakhiv and Pompa-Baldi deliver performances that epitomize the elegant beauty of the score.
Hummel’s music leans more towards the Romantic era. His Concerto for Piano and Violin in G major is one of the influences for Mendelssohn’s early violin concerto. Hummel dedicated the concerto to Count Rasoumovsky, a talented amateur violinist and benefactor of Beethoven.
Hummel’s concerto has a fuller orchestral sound, with a more urgent sense of drama than Haydn’s. The solo passages, especially the piano’s, also seem more technically challenging.
Mendelssohn’s double concerto was written when he was fourteen. Ivakhiv and Pompa-Baldi discovered a revision Mendelssohn made late in life, expanding the string orchestra to a full symphony orchestra. This is the version they perform.
It’s an exciting work, and if you’re only familiar with the original version, an illuminating one. Mendelssohn makes the climaxes stronger, and the dynamic contrasts greater.
Mendelssohn’s D minor violin concerto is a good but not great work. His influences — Hummel, Kreutzer, and Weber — aren’t fully integrated. This gives the work a bit of a patchwork quality to it — still pretty darned good for a tween. Ivakhiv’s innate musicianship brings out the structure of the music, making the solo part more than just runs up and down the instrument.
Four concertos, two different labels, one set of performers. This is a great series, and I hope Ivakhiv and Pompa-Baldi find more to record.
Haydn and Hummel: Double Concertos
Franz Joseph Haydn: Concerto for Violin and Piano in F major. HOb. XVIII:6
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concerto for Piano and Violin in G major, Op. 17
Felix Mendelssohn: Concertos
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in D minor
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor
Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin; Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano
Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Theodore Kuchar, conductor