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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



MODERN MASTERS
Nikolai LOPATNIKOFF (1903-76)

Concertino for Orchestra (1944)
Luigi DALLAPICCOLA (1904-75)

Tartiniana for violin and orchestra (1952)
Harold SHAPERO (b.1920)

Symphony for Classical Orchestra (1947)
Columbia SO/Leonard Bernstein
rec Columbia 30th St Studio, NYC 31 Mar - 1 Apr 1953
SONY CLASSICAL Bernstein Century series SMK 60725 [74.08] Midprice


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For two days in 1953 Bernstein and the Columbia SO toiled away to make these recordings. The resulting LPs are very rarely encountered now. I wonder how many were pressed? They would now be almost half a century old so the chances of their surviving in mint condition are slender. Those LPs emerged in 1954 and 1955 and also included the Hill Prelude (reissued on SMK 61849).

Who now remembers Nikolai Lopatnikoff? Yet during the 1950s this Estonian-born composer was feted by Koussevitsky among others. In 1944 fleeing the all too deadly fate of the wartime Baltic states he became a US citizen and the Concertino is from that same year. No composer springs forward uninfluenced and in Lopatnikoff's case his self-declared forebears were Borodin, Mussorgsky, Hindemith and Stravinsky. In the Concertino the cool, lyrical and abrasively athletic Stravinsky of Pulcinella is in the driving seat. Bernstein lacks nothing in jabbing skittishness and busy vitality. The finale, with its piano interjections, recalled the Shostakovich First Piano Concerto.

Dallapiccola is quite another kettle of fish. Tim Page's notes claim for him a profound lyrical gift alongside a clear-headed and total dedication to dodecaphonic music. He is not alone in this as we can hear from the still far too little known music of Benjamin Frankel. Tartiniana is based on four violin sonatas by the 18th century Italian, Giuseppe Tartini. The four movements feature violinist Ruth Posselt in music that has some quite conservative dissonance but otherwise might be an updated Four Seasons - grave, flighty and groaningly determined as in the finale. Schnittke in his early works favoured this same acrid neo-classical approach. There is also a Tartiniana Seconda - but not recorded here!

Harold Shapero's Symphony for Classical Orchestra is a precursor to the classical, almost look-alike, efforts of George Rochberg both in his violin concerto and mid-period string quartets. Speaking of quartets, Robert Simpson's Beethoven-echo quartets can also be mentioned in this context. Robin Holloway's 1970s Schumann-fantasies (like Domination of Black) are in a similar line as are works by several Icelandic composers (including Leifur Thorarinsson) clearly deeply smitten by the example of Beethoven (the Fate motif stabs away in the first movement of the Shapero). A grave second movement closer to the lyrical and stilly night voice of Stravinsky makes way in third and final movements for the abrasive uproar and disrespectful scurry that takes Beethoven 7 and Nielsen 4 as its model. This is a big work written for a standard-sized 19th century orchestra. While this version has more life than the much more modern Previn-conducted version on New World Records as a work it has not aged well. While Prokofiev's Classical is quoted as a comparison the Shapero does not have the sheer unbounded delight nor yet the concision of the Russian work.

Three works from the neo-classical vein of American concert music. Each draws marrow and flood from Bernstein's utterly committed approach.


Rob Barnett


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