This is an economical
way to take in a handful of twentieth
century violin concertos ranging in
style from sobriety to ecstasy to full
This is of course an
economy reissue. ABC Classics’
packaging uses a very understated design
for the booklet but the documentation
is taken direct from the original CDs.
Xiao-Dong Wang’s tone
is tense and sometimes wiry. Otherwise
he and the Adelaide orchestra have a
good handle on the fragility and feyness
of Szymanowski 1 - a work with
more singing sentiment than its more
feted successor. Gordon Kerry's notes
cogently link this work with the hothouse
fervour and mystical eroticism of Métopes
and King Roger. To that list
I would add the Symphony No. 3 Song
of the Night. As an interpretation
this Szymanowski 1 lacks the lush tone
and definition of Oistrakh and the many-splendoured
witchery of Wilkomirska or Kulka. Also
the sound, while much better than many
of the older classics, is not up to
CD Accord's cosily-warmed acoustic
for Kaja Danczowska.
atmospheric ambience carries over into
the Bartók which in audio
terms is most satisfyingly arranged.
The soloist’s tone continues to evince
that slender tigerish aspect we also
associate with Chung and Mullova - though
not as shining as that of Mullova. This
is a thoroughly enjoyable reading of
the Bartók which leans on the
romantic threads in the score rather
than the cooler modernism projected
in some other versions. The last movement
is a fantastic object lesson in the
mediation between explosive natural
energy and romantic otherworldliness.
In fact the more I hear of this performance
the more impressed I have become. As
touchstones try the last movement of
the Bartók and the opening of
Dene Olding is the
soloist for the second disc.
The Martin in
fact gives the lie to my claim for sobriety
- certainly in the first movement. Olding
nevertheless picks up on the Martin's
more subdued and less demonstrative
genetic material in the middle movement.
The concerto is not at all lush, closer
to the Bartók 2 than to the Szymanowski.
The recording is very good but the Monash
Hall, while delivering a very masculine
up-front image, lacks the magical spatial
sense of the Adelaide Town hall. A grim
or certainly serious air pervades the
finale which it casts aside for some
triumphant climactic statements. However
it is the elegiac tragic stream which
very satisfyingly bids the listener
farewell. The work was dedicated to
Paul Sacher and was commissioned by
the Pro Helvetia Foundation. It has
been recorded by Wolfgang Schneiderhan
with Ansermet and the Suisse Romande
and by Paul Kling with the enterprising
The Milhaud Second
Concerto will appeal to those who are
drawn to the singing aspirational violin
to be heard in the Walton concerto.
Here the voice is shaded by a sort of
sun-warmed Mediterranean expressionism.
Olding rejoices in the dapple and dance
of the finale which is lent raucous
rowdiness by the brass. There is something
of the exuberant no-holds-barred Copland
about this writing - think of El
Salon again but ‘cut’ with Waltonian
'bite'. The concerto cleaves to the
line of stunning virtuoso concertos.
Olding and Iwaki give
a dry-eyed reading of the Barber
which may appeal to you if you have
tired of the classic version on Sony-CBS.
This ABC is the Barber played as if
everyone wished it was the Stravinsky.
This could not be my first recommendation
although the finale certainly does not
disappoint when it comes to gaspingly
breathless dynamism. For first recommendation
I would probably go to the CBSD/Sony.
There is also another Australian performance
by Patrick Thomas which I would commend.
It used to be on an old Unicorn LP UNS256
with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra
conducted by the still bitterly missed
David Measham. It’s a pity that recording
has not been thought glamorous enough
Hearing Olding’s very
individual take on the Barber I began
to muse on how this concerto would have
sounded if it had been allocated to
the Adelaide sessions with Omri Hadari
and Xiao-Dong Wang. Very different I
It would have been
nice to have had some background on
the two soloists. There is nothing in
the booklet. That said the essays on
the works are generously extensive and
well put together. Congratulations to
Messrs David Garrett and Gordon Kerry.
A single width
case completes the picture.
This is the sort of
set that would do very good service
to the young exploratory music-lover
setting out in the foothills. I hope
that it finds its mark. The more practised,
not to say obsessive, collectors will
want this for the rare Milhaud (the
only modern recording, I think) and
also for a different take on the Martin
and Barber. The Bartók should
appeal to those who have been put off
by more cerebral performances.