> Berg - Janacek - Hartmann: Violin Concertos [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Alban BERG (1885-1935)

Violin Concerto (1935).
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)

Violin Concerto (1927/8, completed Faltus/Stedru)
Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-63)

Concerto funebre (1939, rev. 1959).
Thomas Zehetmair (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Heinz Holliger (Berg/Janáček); Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie (Hartmann)
Rec Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk, in July 1991 (Berg/Janáček); Saal der Deutschen Bank, Frankfurt, in March 1990 (Hartmann) DDD

WARNER APEX 0927-40812-2 [59'30]


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This is a rewarding disc of three twentieth century violin concertos, first issued in 1992 on Teldec (2292-46449-2). The most famous piece by far, of course, is the Berg Violin Concerto ('Zum andenken eines Engels'), and it is here that Zehetmair encounters fierce competition. Taken on its own merits, Zehetmair's account is perfectly satisfactory. He is searching in the introduction to the first movement, and much orchestral detail is audible, here and throughout the piece (Berg poses a great challenge for conductors: there is often so much going on that elucidation of textures can prove elusive, but conductors of the calibre of, for example, Pierre Boulez have shown that everything can be audible). The shifting moods of the second movement (Allegretto) find Zehetmair less responsive than either Perlman or Mutter. Perlman is on DG Originals 447 445 2, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Ozawa; Mutter is severally available on DG and is heard in collaboration with, as opposed to accompanied by, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Levine. Similarly, Zehetmair sounds strained by Berg's technical demands in the third movement (Allegro), where he also needs to be more responsive to the Austrian Ländler elements in the score. The finale, however, is dark (rightly so) and the reference to 'Es ist genug' does make its emotional mark.

It is the couplings which make this disc interesting. The Janáček is in fact a fragment, heard here in a completion by Leoš Faltus and Miloš Štĕdrŭ, first performed in 1988 at Brno (another completion by Bretislav Bakala exists). Its total duration is less than twelve minutes and yet it contains Janáček's world in microcosm, including some beautiful moments along the way: the woodwind solos around 3 minutes in are a breath of fresh air and the frequent bitter-sweet harmonies are most affecting.

Finally, some Hartmann. The Concerto funebre is actually the 1959 revision of a Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra which dates back to 1939. It has strong links to the Berg in that it, too, quotes chorales and songs. Zehetmair directs the performance himself and secures a convincing performance that is particularly impressive in the vigorous, manic third movement.

This is one of the stronger issues in Warner's Apex series. Do not buy it for the Berg, particularly if you are unfamiliar with this wonderful piece (there are stronger and more involving claims to your purse elsewhere), but by all means buy it to play straight through and enjoy the stimulation of the juxtaposition of the music of these three composers.


Colin Clarke


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