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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

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Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

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Available again

 

alternatively
CD: Crotchet

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Violin Concerto in D minor, op.15 (1938/1940 revised 1951) [33:40]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Viola Concerto (1928/1929 revised 1961) [30:28]
 Maxim Vengerov (violin, viola)
London Symphony Orchestra/Mstislav Rostropovich
rec. 28 March (Britten), 14, 16 December (Walton) 2002, Studio No.1, Abbey Road Studios, London. DDD
 EMI CLASSICS 2285252 [64:29]
Experience Classicsonline

I first heard the Britten Violin Concerto when Barbirolli conducted a performance, in Bradford in 1967, with the Hallé and the marvelous Wanda Wilkomirska. When is someone going to re-issue her glorious recording of the Delius Sonatas, with David Garvey? Barbirolli led the première in New York and recorded the work with Theo Olof in 1948 - a recording unissued until a few years ago: EMI CDM 5 66053 2. Shortly after the Bradford concert the BBC broadcast a live performance with Hyman Bress and the BBC Welsh Orchestra under John Carewe which I recorded and from which I learned the work. Shortly after this, Supraphon issued a recording of the piece with Nora Grumlikova, with the Prague Symphony under Peter Maag (Supraphon SUAST 50959 - coupled with Vaughan Williams's Concerto Accademico). Since then there's been several very fine recordings - at the top of the list is Mark Lubotsky, with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and coupled with the Piano Concerto with Richter. It's available separately on a single Decca CD 4173082, or as part of a 7 CD set 4756051. There also a recording by Rodney Friend, with the London Philharmonic, under John Pritchard (Classics For Pleasure 5759782 - coupled with the Serenade, op.31, sung by the great Ian Partridge and Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra, conducted by Vernon Handley. Ida Haendel, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Berglund should not be forgotten (EMI Classics 7642022 - coupled with Walton's Violin Concerto). Therefore, anyone making a new recording had better have some good ideas up his sleeve in the face of such stiff competition.
 
With his first entry, with the gorgeously sinuous first theme, Vengerov seems self-conscious, and somewhat reticent. The orchestral accompaniment is likewise withdrawn. The development section fails to really take fire as it should, there's some splendid writing for both soloist and orchestra here, and in the recapitulation Rostropovich holds the orchestra back far too much so that the emotional effect is lost; it sounds rather apologetic, but here Vengerov is fine in his subsidiary role. There is some fine playing in the middle scherzo and Vengerov launches into the cadenza, which links this movement to the finale, with a real spirit but seems to loose his way, and at the end ruins the solo line by incorporating a pause before starting the finale instead of simply continuing without a break. Here, again, the performance is too distant, too divorced from the material. I wonder if the problem is that Rostropovich has too much veneration for the composer and is of the opinion that everything must be very beautiful and not have any awkward corners to ruin the flow of the music? I was most disappointed with this performance for it lacks the bite and weight necessary to make the three movements come alive and grip us with its bitter-sweet lyricism.
 
The Walton Viola Concerto is an entirely different matter. Both Vengerov and Rostropovich fully understand this work and give a sparkling performance. Like the Britten, it has a wistful lyricism, tinged with a bit of 1920s Waltonian irony. Vengerov is as at home with the larger instrument as he usually is with his own and he plays the work with all the melancholy and pathos you could hope for. This, really, is a lovely performance.
 
But do you really want to buy this disk simply for the Walton? The Britten Concerto is much better served by the recordings listed above and as for the Walton you couldn't do much better than Menuhin's recording of both the Violin and Viola Concertos, under the composer's own direction (EMI 5650032 - part of EMI's Walton edition). Perhaps EMI could find a more satisfactory coupling for the Walton thus making it more attractive for the buying public.
 
Bob Briggs

see also review of original release by Ian Lace
 





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