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Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Violin Concerto No. 2 I Profeti (1934) [30:32]
Paul BEN-HAIM (1897-1974)
Violin Concerto (1960) [19:44]
Itzhak Perlman (violin) Israel Philharmonic Orchesta/Zubin Mehta
rec. live, Fredric R Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, 9-16 October 1990. DDD
EMI CLASSICS CDC 7 54296 2 [50:26]

Two composers from axis countries who left those countries in the face of fascism: Castelnuovo-Tedesco from Italy to the USA and Ben-Haim from Munich to Palestine. They are represented here by two fairly brief three-movement violin concertos in a tonal-melodic idiom.

In the Castelnuovo-Tedesco we experience the flaming eloquence of the ancient prophets. The composer shows a singing heart at 3.34 and 10.45 in movement I but also there are moments that are jaunty and swashbuckling. A slight sense of glitzy Hollywood overlay and echoes of Rozsa, Bloch and Respighi do nothing to dilute the attractions of this highly coloured music. In The Lament Of Jeremiah second movement there is a memorable quick yearning recurring motif. The finale is a tone poem representing Elijah seemingly a blithe soul by this account and one inclined to carnival and the full gamut of virtuoso display including a few I did not recalling hearing before. After this I would like to hear the first concerto. Has it ever been performed in modern times, I wonder. I'd be fascinated to hear it.

I have not been able to compare this version with the famous Heifetz (BMG-RCA) but this sounds good and with no audience noise except in the well merited explosion of applause at the end. 

The Ben-Haim concerto is a compact three movement work written for Zvi Zeitlin in 1960. It's also in an approachable romantic style though less succulently fruity than the technicolor pleasures of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The two works do however share a sinuous Middle-Eastern sway and bejewelled orchestration. The Ben-Haim shows more restraint but there are some lovely moments as in the harp and soloist interlude in the first movement. There's a beguiling smiling coolness and honeyed oriental ululation in the andante affetuoso - all in all a very beautiful movement; a sort of oasis Lark Ascending. Treasure indeed. For the finale there's an indomitable acceleration towards a wild conflagration of flaming virtuosity. This carries echoes of Bartok and Enescu, a bluesy haze and the scorch and skirl of the folk fiddle. 

Someone should also look over Castelnuovo-Tedesco's two piano concertos, the second of which the composer played with Barbirolli and the NYPO in 1939. 

Two rare yet rewardingly highly coloured and intensely cantabile violin concertos. Short on playing time; long on interest.

Rob Barnett

 

 

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