Violin Concerto (1938) *
Trois Poemes Juifs **
Rhapsody No. 1
* Roman Totenberg (violin)
*Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann
** Hartford SO/Fritz Mahler rec
Bloch's violin concerto became the property of Szigeti (who recorded it several
times) in much the same way that the Walton was owned by Heifetz. Roman Totenberg
recorded the work on 23-25 September 1961. Totenberg's name has not enjoyed
much attention. This seems unjust given the obvious musical qualities of
this recording. Golschmann and Totenberg draw out the saw-edged violence
and dangerous allure of the work. The forty year old recording holds up amazingly
well and is not bedevilled by hiss. The 'American Indian' theme is resilient
and provides an exotic resource for Bloch's characteristically rhapsodic
inclination. The recording suffers through lack of impact in the brass calls
at 12.20. The andante is reflective providing welcome relief from the wilder
flights of the first. The finale embraces rather than shakes off tragic splendour
and for me suggested an affinity with Benjamin Frankel's Violin Concerto.
However contrast is to be found in the dance and in a Rozsa-like musing.
Bartok's First Rhapsody (1928) is not at all unyielding. It traces its line
from the Magyar Dallok of Liszt. Its two movements whirl and serenade, dip
and curtsey graciously in gypsy style. Well worth having.
The Three Jewish Poems (1917) are Dance, Rite and Cortege Funebre. The first
is tenderly touched with a Middle Eastern accents brushed with Stravinskian
harmonies. Rite stills the waters, pacifies and exalts. All three movements
including the Cortege (written in memory of Bloch's father who died in 1917)
are notable for their transparency of texture - not quite Ravelian (although
Ma Mere l'Oie may well have imbued parts of the Cortege) but certainly less
'cluttered' than we might have come to expect from Bloch. The conductor,
Fritz Mahler (1901-73) was a cousin of Gustav Mahler.
This is a very attractive and economical disc made specially so by the Three