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Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Concerto for violin and wind orchestra Op. 12 (1925) [26.04]
Egon WELLESZ (1885-1974)

Suite for violin and chamber orchestra Op. 38 (1924) [12:31]
Rudi STEPHAN (1887-1915)

Music for violin and orchestra Op. 4 (1913) [12:31]
Stefan Tönz (violin)
Luzern Sinfonie-Orchester/Jonathan Nott
Rec. Kultur- und Kongresszentrum, Luzern, March 1999. DDD
PAN CLASSICS 510 109 [55:47]


Three unfashionable rarities for violin and orchestra - the Weill being the better known (least unknown); the Wellesz and Stephan vying with each other in obscurity.

The Weill is distinguished by its almost ruthless clarity of orchestration. There is no romantic elaboration or relaxation. The sound-world is related to that of 1920s Stravinsky - but certainly is no facsimile. While the orchestral tissue remains unfussy and sharply focused the violin solo is flooded with song; not that the vivace part of the third movement is anything but dashing. There is less of cosmopolitan disillusion than you might expect if you know Weill’s impressive two symphonies. This performance makes more of the work's lyrical soul than Daniel Harding's recording from 1998 on Nimbus. Harding’s exceptional Nimbus recording is more transparent.

Then comes the compact four movement suite by Wellesz (whose symphonies are being recorded by CPO). The first movement has the quick-moving Bachian energy. This is followed by an adagio and a largo that manage to be both haunting and louring. There is not a great deal of consolation in this music. The succinct gemlike Allegro finale is a shade lighter of step. Here Wellesz looks towards the gurgling and lithe nationalism of Bartók. Indeed there are moments in this very short episode when I wondered if I was listening to a lost work by Miklós Rózsa.

Finally comes Rudi Stephan's single movement Music for Violin and Orchestra. Stephan was killed in Galicia aged 28 during the Great War. He is one of the very few German composers we hear about who were killed during that War. Given the scale of the slaughter on all sides it is a wonder that we do not hear more about fallen German, Turkish, American and other musicians. Is there any literature or background on this? English musicians such as Cecil Coles, Ernest Farrar and George Butterworth have been relatively well addressed.

Stephan's quarter hour piece is a kaleidoscope of activity and variation. Bird song, Berg-like lyricism, pre-Raphaelite elaboration, eerie decorative writing and some triumphantly gorgeous Korngold-like moments (10.31) are all present. There is another recording of the Stephan (an all-Stephan disc on Koch) but this much more modern recording has a more agreeable sound. Still, if you need a fuller survey of Stephan the extremely well organised Koch CD is the one to go for. The composer might well have made it in Hollywood on this showing. Listen to the sun setting into the glimmering sea - the final breath of Stephan's Music for violin and orchestra.

Pan Classics hardly ever seem to make it into shops in the UK or USA. This is a pity as their product and choice of artist and repertoire is fresh and challenging.

Well documented, performed and recorded.

Rob Barnett

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