These are two of my favorite pieces, but the performances here are utterly bland and un-committed. Perlman merely saws through both with a mechanical, un-inflected proficiency - he often sounds like he's more in a hurry to get home. Ozawa is worse: he virtually sleepwalks his way through both scores, offering very little in the way of true collaboration. The orchestral commentary in both works just sort of wanders by, with little accentuation or inflection. In Perlman's equally bland account of the Stravinsky with Barenboim, the latter at least provided a more detailed and better executed framework than this catatonic effort by Ozawa.
To my ears, no modern version of either work has matched the stunning achievement of Arthur Grumiaux, who recorded both concertos in excellent 1967 stereo sound for Philips (they were coupled on the same LP). In the Berg, Grumiaux was ably accompanied by Igor Markevitch, whereas the Stravinsky was led by Ernest Bour, a champion of modern music who was trained by Scherchen and who succeeded Hans Rosbaud at the SW German Radio. The orchestra in both cases was the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
Grumiaux was one of the last century's greatest violinists, and his combination of rhythmic zest and soaring lyricism in both works was extraordinary: he was simply a finer musician than the likes of Perlman, Stern, or Zukerman. The Grumiaux Stravinsky Concerto is available in a fine Stravinsky collection on a Philips "two-fer." Unfortunately, the Berg remains in limbo - it is urgently in need of a CD transfer.
There are two old 1930's recordings that remain my interpretive benchmarks in each concerto: Louis Krasner with Anton Webern in the Berg, and Samuel Dushkin with the composer conducting in the Stravinsky. I feel that people who love these pieces should make an effort to find them and hear what is possible in this music.
Despite crackly, deficient mono sonics, the Berg Concerto from May 1, 1936 on Testament Continuum SBT 1004 is an absolute marvel. Krasner premiered the work a year before in Barcelona with Scherchen conducting. Berg's friend and compatriot Anton Webern was supposed to conduct, but he got cold feet at the last moment about performing his late comrade's final testament. Just listen to the performance on this Testament CD - which Webern DID conduct, with the BBC Symphony - and you will hear what is missing with Perlman and Ozawa. It is deeply inflected and romantically impassioned: the phrasing is simply gorgeous.
The 1935 Paris recording with Dushkin in the Stravinsky can now be heard in a splendid transfer on an Andante CD set. Stravinsky was closer to his roots than would later be the case: he and Dushkin fashion an earthy performance that hails back to ancient Russia itself. Dushkin is an obedient fiddler - he plays his part EXACTLY the way Stravinsky wanted it to be heard. His playing may take some getting used to: the composer insisted on an abandoned, rhapsodic, somewhat swoopy style that makes most contemporary accounts sound bland by comparison. A Columbia Records executive once told me that Stravinsky was so incensed at Isaac Stern being chosen for the stereo re-make that he threatened to break his recording contract. But he later relented, and the result was dreary in comparison with the earlier version.
To conclude: try to hear Grumiaux for the best modern accounts of these magnetic scores. The earlier historic versions are wonderful reminders of truly "living" music: they are a sharp contrast to the sterile, dry-as-toast renderings we usually get these days.