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John CORIGLIANO (b. 1938)
The Red Violin Concerto (1997-2002) [37:22]
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1962-63) [22:43]
Joshua Bell (violin)
Jeremy Denk (piano)
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
rec. live, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, June 2006 (concerto), Kupfenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Queens, New York, June 2007
SONY 82876 880602 [62:22]

I donít particularly adore Joshua Bellís sweet, emotionally equivocal violin playing, nor was I entirely enamored of John Coriglianoís ďRed ViolinĒ Concerto when I attended the concert at which this performance was taped. But even with all caveats, this recording is well worth anyoneís ear who isnít afraid of tonal contemporary music.
Starting over a gentle solo violin section quickly supported by flittering strings, occasionally soft woodwinds, the concerto allows the violinist to meander about before he is interrupted by martial interjections, orchestral whip-lash, and cacophonous rumbles. Out of the ruins of this rises the movement anew, led by a solitary, optimistic clarinet. But at the live performance, there were moments when Bell disappeared behind the orchestra that suggested balance problems, rather than composerís intent.
Sure enough the mixing table - or takes from the two subsequent performances in June 2006 - fixed that and the four movement concerto comes across as much improved as a result.
The nervous second movement (Pianissimo Scherzo) with enthusiastically gentle percussion participation, sounds like music that desperately wished to bark but was kept on too short a leash. The Andante Flautando is broad and rich to which the BSO responds with a very pleasing, sonorous sound. It might be best described as giving the impression of several Zbigniew Preisner scores being strung together, but then Preisner wrote some really good film music. Here the film music origins of the concerto become obvious.
I wonít say that I have changed my mind about the Philip Glass, John Adams, or Daniel Brewbaker violin concertos doing more for me, but Iím very glad to have Coriglianoís work now for repeat listening - and well balanced from which it benefits handsomely.
Also included is the Sonata for Violin and Piano which I already liked in performances of Elmar Oliveira with Robert Koenig (Artek AR00352) and Maria Bachmann with Jon Klibonoff (BMG/RCA 64298), but am equally to happy to hear from Bell and Jeremy Denk (who has his own blog).
Jens F. Laurson


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