For this recording
of the Zwilich concerto Naxos has engaged
an excellent young soloist who brings
her superb technique to bear on this
lovely work. In doing so they have has
scored another hit in their American
Music Series. The Violin Concerto is
written in modern tonal style with sweeping
melodies developed with great assurance
throughout the work.
Like almost every other
American composer, she has received
prizes, recommendations and awards.
Does anyone agree with me that the value
of the award is inversely proportional
to the numbers awarded. Still with this
composer, I would say that they were
worth awarding. The Violin Concerto
is written in conventional three movement
style with a medium speed first movement,
a slower middle movement, and a faster
finale. In contrast to many other concertos
like this there are no Italian or other
language speed descriptors against each
movement, merely metronome markings
– ca.62, ca.58 and ca.152.
The second (slow) movement
is based upon the Chaconne from Bach’s
Violin Partita, and the original is
well to the fore in this modification
of the original. The movement is extremely
attractive, and deserves to be better
The Concerto is described
by the New York Times as "A Love
Song for the Violin"; who am I
to disagree. Soloist and orchestra bring
their customary skill to bear and I
enjoyed the results immensely.
The coupling "Rituals
for Five Percussionists and Orchestra",
uses smaller forces than the Concerto.
Its nature is quite different from the
Concerto but that is of no consequence.
Invocations is highly declamatory and
the forward movement is somewhat restricted
as you might imagine. When we get to
Ambulation, a firm forward movement
is set by the orchestra, with the percussion
in parts, trying to disrupt progress.
About a third of the way through the
percussionists seem to have thrown in
the towel, and they start supporting
the rhythm. Remembrances is altogether
more sedate, with the percussion playing
more of a bell-like role supporting
the orchestra at the much slower tempo.
The final movement, Contests is just
that – a hell-for-leather contest between
percussionists and orchestra. I have
not yet made up my mind who wins, but
the percussion have the lion’s share
of the action close to the final loud
chords for orchestra. We have an absolute
myriad of instruments in the percussion
battery, which makes a welcome change
from the two marimbas and side drum
percussion ensembles. The recording
engineers must have had great fun balancing
the percussion instruments with the
orchestra; I can’t imagine it being
done any better.
Well done Naxos – another
hit in the American Music series.
see also review
by Colin Clarke - October Bargain
of the Month