Denmark's Nikolaj Znaider has become a star violinist in northwestern Europe, performing and recording most major works in the violin concerto repertory. In the 2010s he branched out into conducting. Sometimes known by his birth name, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, he was born July 5, 1975 in Copenhagen. His father was a Polish Jew who had moved to Israel and then to Copenhagen, and his mother's family were settled Danish Jews. Znaider's family would join with other members of Copenhagen's small Jewish community for religious holiday celebrations. Znaider studied in Copenhagen with the Russian-born Boris Kuschnir, and he won top prizes at the Carl Nielsen International Music Competition in Denmark at 16 and, the following year, at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels, Belgium. That was enough to land Znaider a place at the Juilliard School in New York, studying with famed teacher Dorothy DeLay among others. He has concertized widely in Europe and North America, and is especially noted for his recording career, which began with a live album on the small Cypres label in 1999. In 2001, Znaider was signed to the major EMI label and has never looked back, recording since then exclusively for major labels: RCA Red Seal, Sony Classical, Denmark's DaCapo, and the growing LSO Live imprint of the London Symphony Orchestra. He has also issued (in 2006) an album of Mozart piano trios with Daniel Barenboim and Kyril Zlotnikov. Znaider's growing conducting career has not simply involved conducting from the violin; he was appointed principal guest conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in 2010. Znaider's cycle of Mozart's violin concertos, on two albums, appeared on LSO Live in 2018. Znaider plays one of the most famous violins in the world, the Guarneri "del Gesu" instrument of 1741 owned for many years by Fritz Kreisler. Kreisler played the violin in the premiere of Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61, a work in which Znaider himself has specialized in concert.
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Concertos - Released January 4, 2010 | RCA Red Seal
Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica
This may or may not be the most passionate, polished, and persuasive performance of Elgar's magnificent Violin Concerto ever recorded, but it is surely the greatest recording violinist Nikolaj Znaider has yet made. Listeners who have followed his career have long recognized him as a major talent; his stupendous technique, glittering tone, distinctive timbre, and wholehearted commitment to the score are tremendously impressive. Not all of his recordings have been successful, though. His disc of encores was staggering in small doses, but deadly dull if heard all at once, and his recording of the Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos was all but sunk by Zubin Mehta's overbearing accompaniment. Here, Znaider has a stunningly difficult work that demands his complete aesthetic and emotional attention, and a conductor who not only knows and loves the work, but knows how to accompany a soloist. Znaider tears into Elgar's love letter of a concerto with such unquenchable ardor that one fears for his instrument and his heart. He consistently triumphs over every difficulty, and his performance is as emotionally affecting as it is musically impressive. On the podium, Znaider has a true partner in Colin Davis, and together with the superlative Staatskapelle Dresden, they turn in one of the finest recordings of Elgar's concerto ever made. Recorded in lush and enveloping digital sound, this disc should be heard by anyone who likes the work or enjoys great violin playing.
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