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Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2, Rhapsodies [Import]

Gil Shaham, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: Ł13.30 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (2 Mar 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B00000I938
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,571 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Violin Concerto No.2, Sz.112 - 1. Allegro Non TroppoGil Shaham16:41Ł2.29  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Violin Concerto No.2, Sz.112 - 2. Andante TranquilloGil Shaham10:48Ł1.49  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Violin Concerto No.2, Sz.112 - 3. Allegro MoltoGil Shaham12:59Ł1.49  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Rhapsody No.1 For Violin And Orchestra, Sz. 87 - 1. ModeratoGil Shaham 5:22Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Rhapsody No.1 For Violin And Orchestra, Sz. 87 - 2. Allegretto ModeratoGil Shaham 5:57Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Rhapsody For Violin And Orchestra No.2 Sz 90 - 1. Lassú: ModeratoGil Shaham 5:15Ł0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Rhapsody For Violin And Orchestra No.2 Sz 90 - 2. Friss: Allegro ModeratoGil Shaham 6:21Ł0.79  Buy MP3 

Product Description

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Bartok 2 Oct 2011
By enthusiast TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This CD has a lot going for it! The great 2nd concerto is here coupled with two delightful Rhapsodies, works that are more than the equal of the more usual coupling of the 1st concerto (which is a youthful and un-typical piece). Pierre Boulez Bartok is, as always, rather stylish: accurate, delicately nuanced, alive. And Shaham is an extraordinary violinist. He possesses an extraordinary technique and delivers accuracy without apparent effort so that his performances are exhilarating and yet his approach is essentially a lyrical and gentle one.

Bartok's second concerto is perhaps the greatest violin concerto of the 20th century but it is not easy to bring off. It has so many moods that shift so suddenly, you hear a glimpse and then they are gone: it can loose direction or structure and just sound a mess or it can sound like hard work (instead of a wonderful miraculous life affirming work!). Well, Shaham's account is lovely and perhaps the most effortlessly refined and structured account out there. Listening to it one wonders that it ever seemed a challenging work.

There are other accounts as worthy - Menuhin's early account with Dorati (on Mercury) has long been a favourite of mine and I also greatly enjoy Kyung Wha Chung's and Solti's ability (and tendency!) to catch fire to name two. But for me that is never the point in great music. What matters is the chance to hear great voices find new and magical and deeply satisfying things to say.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shaham's Performance Is Exquisitely Rhapsodic 21 Nov 2001
By John Kwok - Published on
Format:Audio CD
This fine CD is my introduction to Gil Shaham's excellent violin playing. I'm stunned by the beautiful, warm tone he produces from his violin. Surely these are among the finest performances I have heard of Bartok's works for the violin and orchestra. Boulez leads a clinical, yet lyrical, performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that is full rate, yet not quite as compelling as those I've heard with Boulez conducting the Cleveland and London Symphony orchestras in his Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Ravel Piano Concertos. Still, this is a minor criticism of what is otherwise a superb CD. Of course, the sound quality is absolutely impeccable, thanks to Deutsche Grammophon's state-of-the-art digital recording.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely concerto, sparkling performance 20 Jan 2002
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format:Audio CD
I have found Bartok's string quartets to be stunning, and likewise his piano concertos. What, then, of the Violin Concerto No. 2? Beautiful and compelling! The performance is superb. I haven't heard the earlier benchmark Menuhin or Stern recordings, but Shaham is supple and expressive, Boulez and the CSO are impeccable, and the recording quality is clear and warm.

Do not be put off by the supposedly absent "peasant earthiness," or the implication that Boulez smooths over Bartok's "noisiness" -- I for one prefer the Takacs Quartet's gypsy interpretation of the string quartets. Listen in the second movement, and you will hear an ethereal Debussian passage with harp interrupted by dissonant sawing! Clearly an outbreak of earthy noisiness. Bartok should not be caricatured as "the Hungarian folk music" composer, his vision was far more encompassing! Having said that, the rhapsodies are marvelous as well, combining Hungarian gypsy and Romanian peasant melodies in a more urbane, commercial style than some of his earlier works, according to Paul Griffiths' liner notes.

I recently heard a 1995 recording of the second concerto by Thomas Zehetmair with Ivan Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Here's a comparison -- Shaham/Boulez/CSO is over 40 minutes long, while Zehetmair/Fischer/BFO is just over 35 minutes. The Zehetmair sounds very fast to me, but as it turns out Bartok's own timing marks indicate just 32 minutes. Shaham makes the work sound more Romantic by comparison, while Zehetmair's interpretation is more folk-inflected, with the violin leaping and cavorting very brightly. Shaham has a big, round tone, reminiscent of the great David Oistrakh, while Zehetmair's sound is sharper. DG's sound for Shaham/Boulez/CSO is much better, deeper and richer, while the Berlin Classics recording by comparison is thin. The Berlin Classics disc includes the posthumously numbered Concerto for Violin & Orchestra No. 1, an early work, instead of the Rhapsodies for Violin & Orchestra 1 & 2. Zehetmair (b. 1961) was 34 when he made the Bartok recording in 1995, while Gil Shaham (b. 1971) was 27 when he recorded with Boulez & the CSO in 1998.

There are currently recordings available by 21 violinists (according to Arkiv Music), but the Shaham and Zehetmair performances are two of the best, and I would still say if you could have only one, this Shaham/Boulez/CSO recording would be a great choice!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars *** 1/2 Bartók goes to finishing school 19 Jun 2011
By Captain Lebyadkin - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Pierre Boulez has somehow managed to establish a virtual monopoly on Bartók. Listening to this much-praised performance and comparing it with some of its rivals, I wondered if the critics who praised it had ever heard the piece before. Do people really think Bartók should be this refined?

In its way, this is a masterful performance, but it's completely one-dimensional. Rather than embracing the infinite variety of Bartók's music -- its combination of folky roughness, yearning nostalgia, and driving intensity -- Boulez and Shaham deliberately flatten the piece's contrasts, effectively drowning it in embalming fluid. In the quieter sections of the first and second movements, they make some lovely sounds, and Boulez puts the orchestral part through his patented texture-clarification process; much detail is unearthed. Shaham's approach is hand-in-glove with the conductor's, though he sounds a bit more awake. His small but lovely tone (well captured here) is a pleasure to hear and his innate musicality is always evident. Occasionally, you even get the sense that Boulez is holding him back.

But when something beyond refined clarity is called for, neither conductor nor violinist has anything to offer. Just compare Shaham's mildly assertive phrasing of the opening theme with the boldness of Stern, Chung, or Mullova, and you'll hear exactly what this performance lacks. The first movement's fast, barbaric passages are just fast -- there's no bite to Bartók's mood swings. Similarly, there's no improvisational feeling to the middle movement's fast sections, and the finale is earthbound from first to last, with no momentum or sense of release at the coda. Occasionally, the Chicago players manage to provide some energy of their own accord; the exposed brass passages in the outer movements are particularly well done, as you would expect. But in general you get the sense that Boulez thinks making Bartók's music earthy would somehow diminish it (the opposite is true).

The performance that best captures the "infinite variety" I referred to above is probably the thrilling Stern/Bernstein, but Chung and Mullova also have something to say in this piece. All of them sound much more immersed in Bartók's world than Shaham and Boulez.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shaham's Playing Is Impeccable 20 Feb 2001
By Trevor Gillespie - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Gil Shaham plays his violin more cleanly than many violinists out there. And he doesn't sacrifice virtuosity or lyricism to get that beautiful tone. In this particular concerto (and two rhapsodys), Shaham turns in an incredible performance equaling the great recordings of the past in playing. This violin concerto hasn't gained the popularity of say a Brahms violin concerto, but it certainly has great moments within it. One of the problems of this recording is not Gil Shaham, but Pierre Boulez. The ending is problematic and it leaves you wondering how the piece could have ended like that. The way Boulez has the orchestra playing makes the listener think Bartok must have just gotten sick of writing at some point so, mid-sentence he just wrote a quick ending and made an end of the concerto. That being said, it's still a terrific recording. Both soloist and orchestra do a superb job playing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does there exist any music more glorious than this? Answer: No. 25 Jan 2011
By Tom Brody - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The VIOLIN CONCERTO begins with a stream of steady string-pluckings. Then, a remarkable soaring violin solo begins -- just a soaring as the opening notes of Hindmith's Violin Concerto. At 1 3/4 minutes, the full orchestra blasts out the same tune, as had initially been played by the violin, and then at 2 minutes the plucking resumes. A quiet eerie-sounding episode occurs (3-4 min). At 4 min, 10 seconds, the orchestra issues a forceful blast, and the orchestra is noisy for an entire minute, and there are a few bars reminiscent of the raspberry episode in Bartok's CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA.

At 7 min, 15 sec, comes a very rapid violin solo, as rapid as anything that ever issued from Paganini's bow. At 8 min, 30 sec, comes a brief episode where the brass section issues snarling, biting sounds. At 9 min, 40 sec, comes a sparkling fanfare, reminiscent of the fanfare that begins Bartok's PIANO CONCERTO NO.2. For those who like glissandos, fine glissandos can be found at 11 min, and again at 11 min, 40 sec. A happy little jig, complete with celeste, occurs but it lasts for only ten seconds. A 2-minute violin cadenza is found at 13 min. The first movement ends with a series of woodwind chirps.

The second movement begins very quietly, and the timpani provides thumps and rolls. At 3 min, flutes and celeste and harp make their entrance, sounding like an episode of sonic enchantment from Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY. At 4 min, 50 sec, the enchanting episode changes to a short caustic episode, where the violin saws back and forth. At 7 min, we find a dancing pixie episode, with solo violin plus flutes. The second movement ends quietly.

The third movement starts with a variation of the original tune. Pizzicato plucks abound. A few seconds of silence occur at 2 min, which is followed by eerie shivering violins and celeste. At 3 min, 30 sec, the orchestra wakes up again, providing thundering drums and snarling, barking brass. From 5-6 min, the orchestra takes a break from its fury and commotion, and plays at a moderate level and moderate tempo. A turning point occurs at 7 min, where the solo violin seems to say, "Okay, I have finally made up my mind about this!" Then, comes the usual candy store-type variety of flutes, drums, and pizzicato plucks. At 11 min, 45 sec, comes another decisive-sounding moment. A big brass fanfare occurs at 12 min, 15 sec.

RHAPSODY NO.1 starts with a pleasant, ascending tune, accompanied by a woodwind instrument playing a little motif in an odd, ethnic scale. The full orchestra then bursts forth, providing a sonic palate more familiar to Westerners than the woodwind's Chinese-sounding ethnic noodling. A constant feature of the violin, in the first movement, is that whenever it plays a measure (or plays a bar) the first half of the measure is of normal volume, but the second half of the measure is quieter and withdrawn (like casting out a fishing line, and then always pulling back). The second movement sounds a good deal like SIMPLE GIFTS, the Shaker melody made famous by Copland in APPALACHIAN SPRING. Now and then, we hear the sharp, metallic boing of a plucked string from the CIMBALUM. After 2 min of the SIMPLE GIFTS-like melody, comes a fiddle episode with hints of bluegrass sounding, for example, like the bluegrass fiddle of recording artist Byron Berline. Towards the end, the cimbalum returns with its boing.

According to comments on RHAPSODY NO.1 from The Kennedy Center: "The scalar tune given above a drone-like accompaniment that serves as the main theme of the first movement of the Rhapsody No. 1 exhibits a certain Gypsy influence in its sharply dotted rhythms and exotic melodic leadings. Thematic contrast is provided by the mournful strain, marked by snapping short-long figurations, that comprises the central section. The scalar tune returns to round out the movement. The second movement is a procession of vibrant dance melodies, requiring considerable feats of virtuosity from the violinist. The Rhapsody ends with the return of the scalar melody that opened the work."

RHAPSODY NO.2 starts with violin, clarinet, and oboe trio. There is plenty of orchestral color. There is no particular tune throughout the first movement. The first movement is a tone poem parade of glorious sounds marching along. At 2 min, in the first movement, comes an eerie part, with celeste and flute. The second movement begins with a motoristic theme, reminiscent of Hindemith's METAMORPHOSIS ON A THEME BY WEBER. The second movement is not at all like an amorphous tone poem. In contrast to the first movement, there are plenty of thematic guideposts for the listener to grab, for maintaining orientation. Towards the end of RHAPSODY NO.2 is a short episode sounding like it was inspired by Stravinsky's PETRUSHKA.

The RHAPSODY NO.2 is like a summary of Bartok's career. In this piece, one finds the unadorned folk music style, as is found in Bartok's earliest compositions. In this same piece, one also finds the "brutal" music style, as found in Bartok's MARACULOUS MANDARIN and PIANO CONCERTO NO.1. Moreover, this same piece also contains a minute or so in the style of Bartok's "night music," as found, e.g., in Bartok's PIANO CONCERTO NO.3. In pop music, this type of melange is called a "medley." In the entire realm of classical music, the term "medley" is essentially unknown. Who ever heard of Beethoven compositing a "medley" that contains the best of the tunes found in Beethovens symphonies and piano sonatas?!?!? But Bartok's RHAPSODY NO.2 is the composition that is closest to being a "medley" in the realm of classical music.
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