Two composers from
axis countries who left those countries in the face of fascism:
Castelnuovo-Tedesco from Italy to the USA and Ben-Haim from
Munich to Palestine. They are represented here by two fairly
brief three-movement violin concertos in a tonal-melodic idiom.
In the Castelnuovo-Tedesco
we experience the flaming eloquence of the ancient prophets.
The composer shows a singing heart at 3.34 and 10.45 in movement
I but also there are moments that are jaunty and swashbuckling.
A slight sense of glitzy Hollywood overlay and echoes of Rozsa,
Bloch and Respighi do nothing to dilute the attractions of this
highly coloured music. In The Lament Of Jeremiah second
movement there is a memorable quick yearning recurring motif.
The finale is a tone poem representing Elijah seemingly a blithe
soul by this account and one inclined to carnival and the full
gamut of virtuoso display including a few I did not recalling
hearing before. After this I would like to hear the first concerto.
Has it ever been performed in modern times, I wonder. I'd be
fascinated to hear it.
I have not been able
to compare this version with the famous Heifetz (BMG-RCA) but
this sounds good and with no audience noise except in the well
merited explosion of applause at the end.
The Ben-Haim concerto
is a compact three movement work written for Zvi Zeitlin in
1960. It's also in an approachable romantic style though less
succulently fruity than the technicolor pleasures of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
The two works do however share a sinuous Middle-Eastern sway
and bejewelled orchestration. The Ben-Haim shows more restraint
but there are some lovely moments as in the harp and soloist
interlude in the first movement. There's a beguiling smiling
coolness and honeyed oriental ululation in the andante affetuoso
- all in all a very beautiful movement; a sort of oasis
Lark Ascending. Treasure indeed. For the finale there's
an indomitable acceleration towards a wild conflagration of
flaming virtuosity. This carries echoes of Bartok and Enescu,
a bluesy haze and the scorch and skirl of the folk fiddle.
Someone should also
look over Castelnuovo-Tedesco's two piano concertos, the second
of which the composer played with Barbirolli and the NYPO in
Two rare yet rewardingly
highly coloured and intensely cantabile violin concertos. Short
on playing time; long on interest.