I don't know if it's cultural snobbery that causes Cho-Liang Lin to be overlooked when critics mention the best performances of a given work, but he has been outstanding on every CD I've heard, and this one is no exception. Born in 1960 in Taiwan, Cho-Liang perhaps isn't exotic enough to rank with mainland aritsts like Lang Lang and Yundi Li, but he surpasses them in musicality and innate feeling for classical style. The Prokofiev and Stravinsky concertos aren't classical, of course, but you would never guess that Cho-Liang is anything but a top-flight virtuoso on the order of Itzhak Perlman, so polished and complete is his playing.
I would raise this account of the two Prokofiev concertos above Perlman's EMI versions, in fact, because the sonics from Sony are superb, and Salonen, a committed Prokofiev conductor, offers the best accompaniments I've ever heard. The venue is acoustically superior (Royce Hall at UCLA), and the 20-bit format affords total clarity, with unusually realistic violin tone. As far as interpretation goes, Cho-Liang is powerful, assured, and extrovert. He provides the hushed atmosphere required in the opening of the First concerto, but in both Shcerzos he avoids the biting satire and edgy slashes that other, more daring performers favor (e.g., Leila Josefowicz), falling closer to a sweet-toned Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham. But those are superficial characteristics. What's so remarkable here is the close affinity between soloist and conductor, which makes both works sound like Prokofiev symphonies with violin obbligato. The same smoothness and power is applied to the Stravinsky concerto, which feels not quite right given the composer's preference for a drier, more detached style. On the ohter hand, in its romanticized way, this is a gripping performance, too.
Whatever small reservations one might have, here is superlative playing from an overlooked virtuoso with music in his viens.