This disc is the exception
to the usual approach adopted for the American Classics
line. The norm has been to gather in tracks from every
which way to produce a cogent mix usually structured around
a single composer. This disc is an exact copy of the original
CD issued in 1989 as CDC 7 49464 2.
It was the early 1970s before
the blackly dramatic Schuman's Violin Concerto had been
recorded. That sensational performance was by the Boston
Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The DG recording
set the standard and neither Quint on Naxos nor McDuffie
here have quite the white heat generated by Zukofsky and
the Bostonians. The original DG LP – which I played to
a scratchy death – was 2530 103 but it was reissued on
CD as 429 860-2. It is Hall of Fame
don’t miss the opportunity to get it if you stumble across
a copy. On top of which it was coupled with Piston’s fine
Second Symphony. McDuffie does not make the angst-ridden
music of this two movement work fly as wildly as it does
in Zukofsky’s hands. Nevertheless this is a performance
in touch with Schuman the gaunt troubadour – the tragedian.
It has a lot going for it including all the strident impudence
and midnight sensuality you could ask for in the finale.
The orchestra are at ease in this repertoire with finely
pointed massed pizzicato, rasping monumental brass gestures
(12:13) and the same glorious dynamic blast that rips through
the final pages of the Third Symphony (see
reviews of Bernstein conducitng this work on Sony
As for the Bernstein I came
to know it from Francescatti’s ardent 1960s recording with
the composer and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Its
five titled movements are alive with gorgeous invention
typical of Bernstein. In egalitarian style he shares his
creative riches out between soloist and orchestra. The
language is Bergian at times as at the start of the Socrates
This is no obstacle to some truly vibrant writing which
moves in same sphere as the Walton and the Prokofiev First.
McDuffie is cooler than Francescatti who I rate very highly
indeed – fine Tchaikovsky, Walton and Sibelius concertos.
It would have been good have heard him in the Schuman concerto.
Both the Bernstein and the
Schuman pieces were premiered by Isaac Stern. The Schuman
is a consummate scorching masterpiece and it helps that
it has been attentively recorded. The sound is especially
impressive in picking out detail in the least strenuous
Here are two tensile lyrical
violin concertos continuing the romantic tradition yet