The New York Times
by Allan Kozinn
February 25, 2011
The Dutch violinist Janine Jansen is making efficient use of her stay in New York. Mainly, she is in town as a guest of the New York Philharmonic, with which she played Britten’s Violin Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall on Thursday evening. She is also giving a recital at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday, between her last two Philharmonic appearances.
Both engagements have links to recent CDs by Ms. Jansen. She released a recording of the Britten in 2009, with Paavo Jarvi conducting, and as it happens, Mr. Jarvi is on the Philharmonic’s podium this week. And Ms. Jansen’s Poisson Rouge program draws largely on the French repertory she plays on her “Beau Soir” CD, released this week. (Both discs are on Decca.)
Ms. Jansen knows that the Britten concerto’s relative obscurity makes it a tough sell, and she noted in a recent interview that she had not known the work herself until an orchestra asked her to play it a decade or so ago, but that she had quickly come to love it. She made a strong case for it here, playing the bittersweet opening theme with a tightly centered, irresistibly beautiful tone and a sense of the music’s emotional depth that she maintained to the end.
Though this 1939 work poses technical challenges — passages in double-stops, some fairly quick, are plentiful — it is less about artifice and surface dazzle than intensity and foreboding. Ms. Jansen made that point consistently through her flexible coloration and carefully considered phrasing.
The Britten had its premiere at a New York Philharmonic concert in 1940, with John Barbirolli conducting and Antonio Brosa as the soloist. The bill that night also included Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and Mr. Jarvi recreated that juxtaposition here, giving the Fifth an unusually brisk, visceral, texturally transparent account.
A listener could quibble with his tempos, or with phrasing that could seem mannered at times (what happened to the fermata on the last note of the opening motto?), particularly when it seemed that some of these interpretive twists were driven by the pressure conductors feel to make this war horse of war horses sound fresh at any cost. But most such suspicions vanished as Mr. Jarvi’s account progressed. His tempos and balances came to seem workable and, finally, convincing. And when the orchestra met his challenges — in the magnificently crisp, precise performance of the winding cello line in the third movement, for example — the results were thrilling.
Mr. Jarvi opened his program with Erkki-Sven Tuur’s short, evocative “Aditus” (2000; revised 2002) an essay in opaque, brass-heavy, sustained chords that gradually melt into rhythmically varied, invitingly wiggly themes. The Philharmonic played it with muscle and gracefulness, as the work’s shifting sensibilities demanded.
The Philharmonic’s program is repeated on Saturday and Tuesday evenings at Avery Fisher Hall; (212) 875-5656; nyphil.org. Ms. Jansen’s recital is on Monday at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, near Thompson Street, Greenwich Village; (212) 505-3474; lepoissonrouge.com.