This beautiful recording displays Midori at her radiant best. Her virtuosity is entirely at the service of the music; her tone is lovely, pure, intense, and expressive, and she adapts it to style, mood, and atmosphere with bow and vibrato. The Poulenc Sonata, written in 1942-43 and dedicated to the memory of Federico Garcia Lorca, is unsettled and unsettling. Irresolute, unpredictable, it veers between stormy turbulence and pleading lyricism.
German composer Paul Hindemith wrote concertos for nearly every instrument in the orchestra. Here you get a concert for one of the most common instruments, the violin, along with two distinctively textured orchestral works, the giant Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by C.M. von Weber and the somewhat obscure Konzertmusik für Streichorchester und Blechbläser (Concert Music for Strings and Brass Instruments), the earliest piece on the program (it was written in 1930).
If you've only listened to Heifetz's crude interpretation of Sibelius's tempestuous and capricious concerto in the past, you might be incredulous after listening to this CD. "What? This is the Sibelius Concerto? It's a far cry from the one in my memory." After listening to it twice, however, tears should prick your eyes–the result of two gusts of contrasting emotions in one stroke: anguish over all the beauty, passion and subtlety you've missed in the past from this fabulous concerto, and jubilation at your new discovery of this supreme recording and the privilege to relish every bar of the music.
Period-instrument performances of Beethoven's violin sonatas aren't too common; they pose thorny problems of balance even beyond the question of whether Beethoven wouldn't have preferred modern instruments if he could have had them. But this superbly musical set by violinist Midori Seiler, playing an Italian Baroque violin of unknown manufacture, and fortepianist Jos van Immerseel, on a copy of an entirely appropriate Viennese Walter piano, may well redefine the standard for these works.