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.