Elgar and Finzi Violin Concertos (2018)

Finzi, Elgar

Ning Feng, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Carlos Miguel Prieto

LINER NOTES written by Clemens Romijn

The violin was Edward Elgar’s own instrument and his Violin Concerto is almost like a personal confession: it was ‘too emotional’, Elgar admitted, adding that he loved it nonetheless. The solo part is one of the most exhausting in the repertoire – a veritable compendium of bravura violin techniques. In an interview, Fritz Kreisler, to whom the Violin Concerto is dedicated, ranked Elgar with Beethoven and Brahms. Elgar met the challenge: his Violin Concerto combines the singing quality of Beethoven with the symphonic drama of Brahms.

The London-born Gerald Finzi was in many ways more English than Elgar and his teacher Ralph Vaughan Williams. As can be heard in his Violin Concerto, a well kept secret from 1927, that had its first performance after the premiere only in 1999. The work lasts twenty minutes: a six-minute allegro, a superb central ten-minute molto sereno, and ending with a four-minute hornpipe rondo. It is difficult to understand why Finzi was dissatisfied with his two fast movements. The first combines beauty with energy. Through its sheer romantic beauty, the molto sereno is one of t hose pieces where the hairs stand up on the back of the neck.


"England has always had a very special place in my heart. Not on ly was it the first foreign country I ever traveled to, but I also spent five unforgettable years studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where I learned so much about the English people, history, culture, and, more importantly, the beauty of English Music.

Elgar is perhaps the most iconic figure in British music history. People may say that his cello concerto is the more popular piece, but no one would doubt that his violin concerto is, certainly, the most monumental piece in the British violin repertory. I still remember the first time I heard the piece and how much it reminded me of the landscape, the colour, the image of England. It is always very emotional for me to perform this piece, the longest violin concerto ever written, as all the precious memories of my time in England come flooding back. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to a very special friend of mine, Mr Chong Long, who introduced me to the wonderful Finzi violin concerto. Compared with the Elgar violin concerto, Finzi’s is a much shorter piece written in concerto grosso style. It has lovely energetic first and last movements, with a beautiful, touching slow second movement in between. It is a wonderful and very interesting listening experience to have these two English violin concertos placed together. I would also like to share my appreciation for Mr. Long’s generous support, which made this recording possible."

PRODUCER'S NOTE written by Jared Sacks

"My first impression on coming to Liverpool was the deep respect the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has for Ning Feng. Feng had already been there a number of times so the feeling was mutual. Everyone was very relaxed yet anxious to work with Maestro Pietro and Feng. (quite different from some of the other orchestras I have worked with). You really hear their commitment in the playing. Each member of the orchestra is giving Feng the freedom to express as the soloist, yet they are right there when they have their own moment to shine."

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Ning Feng

Born in Chengdu, China, Ning Feng studied at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and London’s Royal Academy of Music where he was the first student ever to be awarded 100% for his final recital. The recipient of prizes at the Hanover International, Queen Elisabeth and Yehudi Menuhin International violin competitions, Ning Feng was First Prize winner of the 2005 Michael Hill International Violin Competition (New Zealand), and in 2006 won first prize in the International Paganini Competition, following in the footsteps of violinists such as Kavakos, Kremer and Accardo.

Established at the highest level in China, Ning Feng performs regularly in his native country in recital, with their many local orchestras, and with major touring orchestras. Now based in Berlin and performing worldwide, Ning Feng has developed a reputation internationally as an artist of great lyricism and emotional transparency, displaying tremendous bravura and awe-inspiring technical accomplishment.

In recent seasons Ning has performed with orchestras such as the Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer, Russian State Symphony/Vladimir Jurowski, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg/Tang and in halls such as Sydney Opera House, Moscow’s Great Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Konzerthaus, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center and Beijing’s NCPA. In recital he has played in prestigious series and festival such as Vancouver Recital Series and Hong Kong International Chamber, Prague Spring, and Schleswig-Holstein Festivals.

In the 2013/14 season, Ning’s orchestral engagements include his debut with the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra with Ivan Fischer, a return to the Hong Kong Philharmonic/van Zweden both in Hong Kong and Taipei, his debut with the Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Carneiro and concerts in China, Singapore, Taiwan and Macau with the Kaoshing Symphony and NCPA Orchestras. In recital, Ning Feng will perform in cities such as Hong Kong, Moscow, Boston and across China, and with Igor Levit and Sebastian Klinger he will perform piano trios across Germany, including at the Heidelberg, Ludwigsburg and Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festivals. Other festival appearances include his return to the Menuhin Festival Gstaad and Kissinger Sommer Festival where he performs every year and where he will be an Artist-in-Residence in 2014.

Ning Feng records for Channel Classics in the Netherlands. His most recent recording of the solo sonatas by Bartok, Prokofiev and Hindemith was released in August 2013. His previous disc, Solo, featuring works by Paganini, Kreisler, Berio, Schnittke and others, received a first-class review by Audiophile Audition: “You will be blown away by the artistry of this album, and blown away in great sound to boot. This is a stunning recording of solo violin works by a variety of composers… and there are really few violinists who are able to pull it off. Ning Feng is one of those who can, not only for his sterling playing but also because of the rabid intelligence behind the selection of pieces here. None of these works is anything less than enthralling, and a few approach the incandescent. Milstein’s arrangement of the Paganiniana has never been bettered… this is an unqualified recommendation of a wonderful album that demonstrates the highest artistic and programming skills possible.” His recording of the Bruch Scottish Fantasy and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin will be released later in 2013.

Ning Feng plays a 1721 Stradivari violin, known as the ‘MacMillan’, on private loan, kindly arranged by Premiere Performances of Hong Kong.

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Elgar and Finzi Violin Concertos (2018)

Finzi, Elgar

Ning Feng, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra


Don't miss this!

Michel Dutrieue[read full review]

    Opus Klassiek

(…) Ning Feng heeft in China een forse reputatie die door zijn optredens een toegevoegde waarde oplevert. Als daarmee de vioolconcerten van Elgar en Finzi onder de aandacht van een nieuw publiek komen is er een belangrijk doel bereikt. Bovendien is hij een prachtsolist, die uitstekend wordt gesecundeerd door Carlos Miguel Prieto (ook in Nederland geen onbekende) en het orkest van Liverpool. Een mooie toelichting van Clemens Romijn en een fraaie opname (geen super-audio) door Jared Sacks zorgen voor een eindproduct om trots op te zijn.

Siebe Riedstra

    Luister 9

(...) elegant, doordacht, subtiel en vooral onnadrukkelijk beweegt hij zich als een gentleman door de muziek en laat die zo grotendeels voor zichzelf spreken. (Solist en dirigent lijken elkaar naadloos te vinden in deze muzikale benadering (...)

Harry-Imre Dijkstra


(...) Then, in the cadenza, Feng's interpretation suddenly snaps into focus. He plays it ardently, evoking a rapt atmosphere that stands out from this otherwise overly sedate interpretation. (...) I very much like the delicate, tightly focused sound Feng brings to Finzi's early Violin Concerto (...)

    Crescendo Magazine (BE)

...) Le violoniste chinois Ning Feng en donne ici une exécution des plus inspirées, fidèle à l’esthétique d’Edward Elgar (...)(

Jean-Baptiste Baronian

    BBC Music Magazine -

(...) a technically immaculate player (...) violinist Ning Feng is ideal in Elgar Violin Concerto is pin-point accurate and tingles with focused intensity (...) his deeply considered account of Elgar's Concerto is the real reason for buying this disc. Not a bar of it is uninvolving, and the recorded sound is excellent.

    Audiophile Mag Italy -

Performance: (…) a refreshingly old-world approach to matters of tempo and rubato (…) he varies the pace and note values, uses variable vibrato and an extensive range of tonal and dynamic shading to create a highly charged account of the score replete with the necessary noblimente and innigkeit. Sound: (…) the internal balance is excellent and Ning Feng isn’t too prominent. What is particularly impressive is the weight of sound, so the tuttis have real impact, as is the sense of projection and presence, all of which is achieved without any loss of clarity or detail, so you hear the different sections of the orchestra in climaxes and woodwind solos aren’t overly highlighted.

    MusicWeb International

Ning Feng is the subtle protagonist, a metrically flexible player whose dynamics are astutely judged and whose technique is up to the demands of the Elgar. His tone production is intriguing, his colouring and coiling of the line - his use of the right hand in particular in these respects – ear-catching in the extreme. His is a supple stylist too, capable of graphic delicacy and refinement, and very sweet toned indeed throughout the compass. He doesn’t avoid expressive shifts either, which is stylistically apt, nor does he make an especially big sound. He doesn’t cut through the orchestra like a rapier, preferring a certain plasticity in his lyricism.

Jonathan Woolf

    Gramophone Podcast

(...) the same orchestra (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) gives glorious support to Ning Feng in Gerald Finzi's Violin Concerto in an impressive new recording that has the Elgar concerto as coupling. (...)

    De Gelderlander- 4 Stars

(...) Elgar's Violin Concerto bursts of passion, especially by the emotional approach of Ning Feng. In an engaging way, he combines lyricism (Andante!) with bravura and it is excellently supported by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of the Mexican conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto. (...) (...) De passie straalt er van af. Vooral in de emotionele aanpak van Ning Feng. Die combineert op een innemende wijze lyriek (Andante!) met bravoure en wordt daarbij voortreffelijk ondersteund door het Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra onder leiding van de Mexicaanse dirigent Carlos Miguel Prieto. (...)

Maarten-Jan Dongelmans

Elgar and Finzi Violin Concertos (2018)

Finzi, Elgar

Ning Feng, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Amplifiers: van Medevoort, Holland
Assistant Recording Engineers: Ausma Lace, Chris Tann
Cables: Van den Hul
Digital Converters: Grimm A/D DSD 64fs
Editing Software: Pyramix Merging Technologies
Mastering Engineer: Jared Sacks
Mastering Room: Grimm LS1 speakers, Van den Hul cables
Microphones: Bruel & Kjaer 4006, Schoeps
Mixing Board: Rens Heijnis, custom design
Producer: Jared Sacks
Recording Engineer: Jared Sacks
Recording location: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, February 2017
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64
Speakers: Audio Lab, Holland

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40218: Elgar and Finzi Violin Concertos
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Concerto in B minor for Violin and Orchestra - Allegro
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Concerto in B minor for Violin and Orchestra - Andante
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Concerto in B minor for Violin and Orchestra - Allegro
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Violin Concerto - Allegro
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Violin Concerto - Molto sereno
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Violin Concerto - Hornpipe Rondo - Allegro risoluto
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