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alternatively Crotchet

Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)
Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1938-39) [25:02]
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Concerto for violin and orchestra (1935) [28:29]*
Leoš JAN¬ČEK (1854-1928)
Sinfonietta (1924) [24:12]
Edith Peinemann (violin) *
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe
rec. Royal Festival Hall, 18 February 1976 (Tippett and Berg); Fairfield Hall, Croydon, 12 October 1975 (JanŠček)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4215-2 [78:03]

With Kempe at the helm we can be assured of elevated and noble performances. The BBC Legends issue captures him in two concerts given four months apart. The February 1976 concert was given at the Royal Festival Hall and gives us not unexpected fare – Berg – and decidedly unusual repertoire for Kempe in the form of Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra.
This positively crackles with rhythmic energy and dynamism, the strings responding with admirable precision and unanimity of attack. The result is a performance of real standing and a precious surviving example of Kempe’s small repertoire of British works. I think most listeners would find the Adagio cantabile the most arresting and remarkable of the three movements in this performance. It’s not just the palpable warmth of the phrasing; it’s the sheer depth of the warmth, the unusual tenderness and lyric freedom that Kempe locates at its heart. This is freely and fully sustained over ten and a half remarkable minutes, as the music ebbs and flows, buoyed by sure dynamics and a tremendous ear for balance and the peak of a phrase. But nothing in this performance should be underestimated. The finale too has buoyancy and admirable flexibility. And it’s a magnificent performance all round.
Kempe partners Edith Peinemann in the Berg Concerto. She plays with true architectural awareness and with a chamber intimacy that ensures that the concerto is projected with sympathetic and moving directness. This is not to imply that it’s too pliant a performance; far from it. She has plenty of grit in her Guarneri and she’s not afraid to coarsen the tone when necessary. It brings a multi-dimensionary quality to the performance. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the Chorale statement, which is lucid, calming and gentle. This is a potent survival and augments Peinemann’s sparse discography excellently. Due to misunderstandings with agents early in her career she wasn’t given the opportunities to record that should have come her way, given her excellence as a player. She is seventy at the time of writing and this is a valuable and lasting example of her art.
Kempe made a well regarded recording of the Glagolitic Mass and he was no stranger to JanŠček. At the Fairfield Halls he leads a highly effective reading. If I sound equivocal I probably shouldn’t but a small detail bothers me. He’s rather ponderous in the central movement – maybe he’s projecting a specifically military tone and timbre here but it sounds to me rather staid at the selected tempo. And post-Bakala and Mackerras as JanŠček proponents of this work Kempe’s instincts in the finale are perhaps rather too composed for real ascendancy.
There is good sound quality and minimal audience noise. Marshalled by Kempe this trio of performances has much to offer. The Berg and the Tippett are the most noteworthy and elevated; the latter remarkably so.
Jonathan Woolf


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