Gramophone January 2016
One couldn’t help wondering, when Jack Liebeck launched his exploration of Bruch’s violin works last year, why he began with the Third Concerto. It was an uphill struggle, with Liebeck attempting to convince us that this is more interesting music than it is. Still, it was a worthy project, for completeness’s sake, showcasing an approach as fresh as we have come to expect from this violinist.
It’s an approach that pays dividends in this latest recording, which unites Liebeck with Bruch’s evergreen Concerto No 1. No sign here of nanny-goat vibrato or the banana-skin slides that mar Daniel Hope’s otherwise well-judged recording. No, what Liebeck seems to be saying is that Bruch needs no additional sweeteners. His playing is unpretentious and strikingly introspective, resulting in an Adagio of quiet dignity. And even if the first movement doesn’t quite match the grandeur of Julia Fischer’s or the sweaty passion of Vadim Gluzman’s, it stands out for its poise and clarity.
The rest of the programme profiles lesser-known fodder. Lesser known for good reason, because neither the Romance in A minor nor the four-movement Serenade in A minor can compete with the First Concerto for nuance and emotional depth, let alone memorable tunes. Nonetheless, they draw urgent, vibrant playing from Liebeck, who embraces every opportunity for contrast. And it says much for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Martyn Brabbins that they sound, throughout, as though genuinely enamoured of this music.