There is a self-selecting audience for this disc. People who want to know what the withdrawn original version of the Violin Concerto of Sibelius will have to hear this recording by violinist Leonidas Kavakos with Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony. Sibelius withdrew the version of the Concerto premiered in 1904 shortened it, tightened it and focused it and premiered a second version in 1905. The revised version became a warhorse in the stable of violin concertos, but the original version disappeared until this world-premiere recording was released in 1990.
Sibelius' original Violin Concerto is more expansive, more discursive, more overtly romantic, and more overtly virtuosic. By following a performance of the original version with a performance of the revised version, the weaknesses of the original are more obvious while the strengths of Sibelius' revisions are more apparent. Kavakos is a fine and fervent soloist who makes persuasive cases for each version of the work. Vänskä and the Lahti are sympathetic accompanists in either version of the work. An audience looking for a single recording of Sibelius' Violin Concerto should probably look for either the muscular and more passionate performance of Oistrakh or the virtuosic and more intense performance of Heifetz. But for the audience that has already heard several dozen recordings, hearing the original will be irresistible. BIS's sound on its 500th release is clear, deep, and real. (James Leonard)