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MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)

Wladimir VOGEL (1896-1984)
Violin Concerto* (1940)
Hermann SUTER (1870-1926)

Violin Concerto in A minor Op.23 (1921)
Bettina Boller (violin)
Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne/Jürg Wyttenbach*/Mario Venzago
No Rec. info DDD

This disc couples two contrasting "Swiss" violin concertos written less than 20 years apart in the first half of the 20th century. Whereas the Vogel is audibly from the 20th century, if not exactly avant-garde, the Suter is a late-romantic work in the standard three movement format. It could have been written at least half a century earlier but this doesn’t really matter – it is a fine, lyrical work. Originally written for Fritz Busch, it is far from being just a virtuoso showpiece. Vogel’s concerto is the work of a more original mind, influenced by, but not subservient to, twelve-tone techniques. After a first movement with few surprises, at its heart lies the long lento second movement which begins with an extended and nebulous sounding cadenza. The third movement is marked ‘scherzando’ and there is a brief finale "in modo Mozart", during which the overture to The Magic Flute is given an atonal makeover. This is an interesting work which is well worth hearing.

Both these composers were completely new to me. Vogel was born in Moscow, went to Germany in the 1920s but was exiled (mostly in Switzerland) once the Nazis came to power, and finally became a Swiss citizen in 1954. Scriabin and Busoni were among his early influences. The latter provides a link to Suter, who championed Busoni’s music in concerts he gave as conductor of the Basel Symphony Concerts. Other links are suggested in the amply annotated booklet – one of Vogel’s pupils was Robert Suter and his violin concerto was written for Suzanne Suter-Sapin but their relationships, if any, with Hermann Suter are not explained.

Bettina Boller gives convincing performances of both works. She displays fine technique and communicates well although there are some slightly rough edges in the finale of the Suter. She is well supported by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. The recording is perfectly acceptable, if not absolutely out of the top-drawer. I enjoyed this disc. Both these works deserve to be better known and this is a very good introduction to them.

Patrick C Waller

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