Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Reviews from other months
ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998) Sonata for violin and chamber orchestra (1967) [17.31], Concerto Grosso for violin and string orchestra (1993) [27.48], KURT WEILL (1900-1950) Concerto for violin and wind orchestra (1924) [13.35], TORU TAKEMITSU (1930-1996) Nostalghia for violin and string orchestra (1987) [14.08] Daniel Hope (violin) English SO/William Boughton rec May 1998 except Takemitsu: March 1995 NIMBUS NI5582 [73.02]

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Here served up for your delectation are four modern and moderately challenging works for violin with orchestra. Two call themselves 'concerto', in the case of the Schnittke adding the word 'grosso'. Both concertos so-called are in one case for the solo instrument with strings and the other with wind orchestra. Only the Weill is called a Concerto pure and simple and even that is unusual in its specification of a wind orchestra. All in all this is a multi-faceted and surprising collection.

Both Takemitsu and Schnittke died recently and, while we are on the subject of mortality it is worth reminding ourselves that Weill died surprisingly early at the age of 50.

The Schnittke Sonata announces itself amid tentative Bergian shards of melody and glints and sparks from the harpsichord. This resolves into a barbaric shostakovichian dance. The second movement is a stamping dance with harpsichord again a prominent part of the texture. Over pizzicato accompaniment the solo violin delivers a stream of melody. The third movement has the softest clashing harmonies, Bachian and gentle. Over a plangent accompaniment the violin sings sweetly. There is a beautifully poised emotional dance for the violin's high harmonics and a syncopated finale. This work is nowhere near as tough as the first movement might lead you to expect. The Weill is a rare work dedicated to Szigeti but never played by him. Stravinsky's concerto for piano and wind orchestra is roughly contemporaneous. The Weill is in four movements with the unusual textures to be expected of this instrumentation. The work is often chaste in character and athletically busy for the solo violin. There is a fine dance for the solo violin in the first movement. Sorrowfully subdued fanfares appear in the second movement. The solo violin in the last movement is lushly succulent, no doubt aided by an extremely good recording.

Returning to Schnittke, we have the Concerto Grosso No. 6. This is less challenging than the first movement of the Sonata. Initially the sound is virtually Sibelian; at least so far as the string writing is concerned. A vigorously crashing and flickering violin dominates the first movement. The bell-evocative solo piano chords of the second movement (Adagio) often suggest a piano concerto and that solo instrument's exciting 'pile-driver' part verging on hysteria makes an immediate impression: Bach on speed! The solo violin slips, slides and slithers its way through the movement. The Allegro vivace finale opens with a sound like a thousand gargantuan bees or a massive underground factory. The movement ends somewhat inconsequentially. The best approximation I can give for the Takemitsu is Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending. It is as if the lark is ascending high in a subterranean world. The music is serene but dark and it would not have surprised me to find that this had originally been intended as the middle movement of a violin concerto. This is a quite a long rhapsodic work - not at all avant-garde.

This appears to be the recording debut of the violinist, Daniel Hope. He is to be congratulated for the enterprising choice of music. No Mendelssohn/Bruch launch for him! He seems totally in sympathy with the music: dedicated and dazzling whether in virtuosity or in poetic sensitivity.

Recommended if you warm to the descriptions of these works.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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