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The Telegraph - Feb 2016

It is amazing the unsung or forgotten composers the record label Hyperion has managed to come up with for its Romantic Violin Concerto series. Long-forgotten masters such as Frederic Cliffe and Baron Frédéric d'Erlanger, Joseph Jongen and Sylvio Lazzari, Emil Mlynarski and Aleksander Zarzycki have shown that the art of composing for the violin did not rest entirely with those more celebrated figures who have stood the test of time.

Composers who are now relegated to the periphery of the repertoire give invaluable insight into the general artistic milieu of their day, and establish a helpful cultural context in which to view and listen to the works of the acknowledged greats. However, the Mendelssohns and Elgars of this world have also found their rightful place in the Hyperion series, and now we are back once more on familiar territory with Volume 19, coupling the G minor Violin Concerto No 1 completed by Max Bruch in 1867 together with his Romance Op 42 of 1874 and the Serenade Op 75 of 1899.

Jack Liebeck's Hyperion recording of Bruch's rarely heard Third Concerto, coupled with the popular Scottish Fantasy (CDA68050), was released in 2014 and was greeted with the high praise that this new disc merits.

His tone is richly hued but at the same time supple and capable of finely shaded nuances of timbre. The passion of the playing derives naturally from the fierce intensity that inhabits the themes of the first movement; but then, in the second, Liebeck can summon up the tenderest emotional reveries before harnessing the powerful energy and rhythmic bite that lend the finale such exciting momentum.

Ably supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins, this is a performance of a wellknown concerto that takes nothing for granted.

Instead, in the most sensitive fashion, it allows the music to breathe and blossom, capturing afresh the lyricism and romantic glow that have made it one of the bestloved violin concertos in the entire repertoire.

Bruch never quite succeeded in building on the success he achieved with the First Concerto, but that is not to say that the A minor Romance—originally intended as a concerto first movement—is in any way short of characteristic Bruchian melody and atmosphere. The Serenade is a substantial piece, longer in fact than the concerto, and again establishes its delightful mix of charm and bucolic spirit through Liebeck's remarkable artistry and imagination.

Geoffrey Norris

The Guardian 21/1/16

At the age of 30, Max Bruch wrote a violin concerto that would still be sitting at the top of radio listeners’ polls more than a century later; he spent the rest of his career trying to repeat the success, while kicking himself for selling the rights. Jack Liebeck pairs the familiar Concerto No 1 with two works for violin and orchestra that are similarly sumptuous, if less consistently inspired. The four-movement Serenade in A minor is patchy: a passage of sighing, soaring gloriousness emerges halfway through the second movement, only to be discarded for a relentlessly perky march, and the rhythmically repetitive finale would sound downright turgid under any conductor less dynamic than Martyn Brabbins. The 10-minute Romance in A minor is lovely, but easy to forget. Yet anyone who likes the familiar Bruch will enjoy this too, and Liebeck is a red-blooded, eloquent advocate throughout.

Erica Jeal

Strad Magazine JAN 2016

I am curious about the ordering of this disc (volume 19 on Hyperion's Romantic Violin Concerto series). The cover lists the works in chronological order yet the disc itself is the other way round. Accordingly, one wonders a little about the dramatic 'curve' of the contents—from the rhapsodic Serenade via the elegiac Romance to the more traditionally structured (and famous) Violin Concerto.

I must admit, though, that my objections are undermined by the superlatively good playing here. Jack Liebeck, a justly celebrated musician, offers gloriously clear-toned and intelligent renditions—revealed by an exquisitely balanced recording quality that admirably teases out the individual orchestral colours (as in the first movement of the concerto).

Liebeck's superb technique is evident throughout, enlivened by carefully modulated vibrato and appropriate—though at times slightly snatched—portamentos (as in the Serenade's first movement). There is a lean quality to the playing that only adds to its intensity.

The problem, then, is that the most structurally rigorous music is placed last, after a lot of beautiful but somewhat directionless composition that might leave the ear engorged with loveliness and less inclined to appreciate the higher artistic achievement in the playing itself. But I am doubtless splitting hairs, for this is one of the best-presented discs I have heard for a long time.

David Milsom

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.

Hannah Nepil

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