Nemanja Radulovic’s Double-Dipping Tchaikovsky

Review by: Victor Carr Jr


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

The cloying pop-culture marketing notwithstanding, it’s not immediately clear from the CD booklet cover that Nemanja Radulovic is playing the solo part of both works on this disc. The photo depicts only a violin pegbox nestled in his prodigious hair.

Surprisingly, it’s the Rococo Variations that’s the more compelling item here, mainly because Yvan Cassar’s arrangement–for viola and chamber ensemble (strings and piano)–invites you to hear it with fresh ears. With the piano (handsomely played by Stephanie Fontanarosa) replacing the wind instruments, we don’t get to hear Tchaikovsky’s unique and fetching woodwind timbres at the end of the theme’s first appearance, but the compensating lightness of texture has a freeing effect on the music, making it sound less pedantic than usual. Radulovic seems to be enjoying himself, as he brings much energy and panache to the solo-viola part. Nicely done.

It’s a different story for Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, where Radulovic adopts a strange, slithery “legatissimo” playing style that abounds with portamentos (written, or not). Throughout the first movement I kept thinking of a country fiddler endeavoring to dazzle the young maidens with his “I know better than the composer” timbral and articulation enhancements. Given all this, I was surprised that Radulovic didn’t compose his own cadenza instead of opting for the traditional one, which in his hands winds up sounding like Schnittke.

The Canzonetta is relatively free of these distractions, and the Finale draws some fine swift-paced playing from the violinist. But the slower sections find him back to his previous fidgeting with tempo, tone, and phrasing. Perhaps Radulovic really wanted to be a jazz violinist?

Sascha Goetzel seems content to let Radulovic have his way in the concerto, as he keeps the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic’s accompaniment at a subdued volume, thereby muting the tonal colors of Tchaikovsky’s score–something only a violin fanatic would find pleasing. If that’s not you, forget this recording and investigate the listed alternatives. (Rating is upgraded for the Rococo Variations performance.)

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Violin Concerto: Heifetz (RCA); Perlman (EMI/Warner)

  • Nemanja Radulovic (violin, viola); Stephanie Fontanarosa (piano)
  • Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Sascha Goetzel (Concerto)
    Double Sens (Rococo Variations)

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