The 1930s saw a larger number of front-rank violin concertos than any other decade, making Fabiola Kim’s collating of three finished or premiered in 1939 an astute one. A consummate while never mindless technician, she identifies the essential trait in each – whether Walton’s modifying of the late-Romantic archetype, Hartmann’s revitalising of the Baroque model or Bartók’s harnessing of a Classical formal poise with a modernist expressive range. Certainly, their emotional as well as temporal similarities have rarely been made so concrete as by Kim.
That said, these readings are not the whole story. The initial Andante of the Walton lacks bite in its more incisive passages, with interplay of capricious and suave elements in the Scherzo a little underplayed, then a falling-off of momentum in the finale well before the accompanied cadenza and resolute coda – where Tasmin Little’s less polished but more searching approach comes into its own. In its unrelieved angst and abrasive timbres, the Hartmann is a powerful statement of helplessness in the face of tyranny, Kim mindful to bring out a numbed lament in the opening Adagio (with its sombre epigraph) and coursing anger of the ensuing Allegro, though Alina Ibragimova goes appreciably further prior to a finale searing in its despair. The Bartók is the highlight here, Kim audibly attuned to the forward impetus characterising its interrelated outer movements even in their more inward episodes, with limpid eloquence in the Andante to temper its stark symmetry; yet Isabelle Faust summons even greater passion and dynamism en route to a surging peroration (sans soloist, as Bartók originally envisaged).