Son of a famous father Vasco Barbosa is one of Portugal’s
leading post-war instrumentalists. His studies with Kulenkampff, Enescu
and Galamian equipped him for a career as leader of National Symphony
Orchestra of Lisbon (and its subsequent incarnations) and as a proponent
of many contemporary Portuguese works. His advocacy of, amongst others,
Luis de Freitas Branco, Frederico de Freitasand Ruy Coelhohas not been
ignored by Strauss – see SP4042, SP4061
and SP4144 respectively.
In this live 1965 broadcast from Lisbon he steps out
to perform the Brahms with his own orchestra. At the helm is the experienced
Fritz Rieger, little known, but with a solid command of the Austro-German
repertoire. The rather distant and occasionally desiccated sound does
not, it’s true, flatter the orchestra, the first violins of which sound
very hard pressed in the tuttis of the first movement. The soloist is
spotlit and we can hear the inevitable executive casualties of a live
performance – both left and right hand – which include bowing slips,
an occasional instability in runs, and some rhythmic problems.
The reverberation also hinders full appreciation of
Barbosa’s tone and his fastish vibrato. As may be expected his interplay
with the orchestral palette is especially fine and the way he digs into
the string in the first movement is exciting and engaging. The contours
of his performance are fine, his musicianship distinguished. Once or
twice I felt – especially in the second and third movements – that his
phrasing became overly metrical and not ideally flexible.
At 38 minutes – with no filler – this is hardly a first
choice recommendation but for admirers of Barbosa it’s a good souvenir
of this fine musician in central repertoire.
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