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Violin Concertos

Felix Mendelssohn, sir Roger Norrington Audio CD

Price: 20.13 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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1. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In E Minor, Op.64: I. Allegro Molto Appassionato
2. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In E Minor, Op.64: II. Andante
3. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In E Minor, Op.64: III. Allegretto Non Troppo - Allegro Molto Vivace
4. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In D Major, Op.61: I. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
5. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In D Major, Op.61: II. Larghetto
6. Concerto For Violin And Orchestra In D Major, Op.61: III. Rondo. Allegro

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning new performances 8 Jan 2005
By Les Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I greatly enjoyed the recordings of the Mendelssohn and Beethoven violin concertos by Joshua Bell and the Salzburg Camarata. They are ...

Lyrical and vigorous. Forceful and gentle. Original and respectful of tradition. Technical but tasteful.

And they sing with the joy of music-making in every measure. There is a sense of drama where appropriate and always a keen feel for the emotional depth of the music.

But, I have read some other reviews that are not as favorable and I would like to make a few comments about those. The orchestra is smaller than people are used to hearing. This is probably consistent with performances during the composers' lives but it sounds a little unfamiliar to listeners today. With a smaller orchestra, the balance between brass and strings is always on the brass side. But I found their playing very articulate except for a few places that could have been edited (live performances by all performers have a few of these). Second, there were mixed reviews about Bell's use of his own cadenzas. I thought they are tasteful and interesting. Over the years I have been really disappointed by some of the candenzas played by even well-known violinists in the Beethoven. Bell's cadenzas seemed in the spirit of the works. A reviewer complained that Bell's vibrato was a little too much in places, and I tend to agrees with that; but it's all a subjective. A few other problems that people had can be attributed to Bell's own style of intonation, the fact that some very soft passages just don't come through on the recording (which is Sony's fault) and the fact that, let's face it, we are creatures of habit and anything even a little bit new and different takes a little time to accept.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely tone but recessive performances 24 Sep 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
In performance I've found Bell to be the opposite of his glossy public image--a committed, sensitive, poetic violinist who happens to perform on an exceptionally beautiful Strad. On his records these qualities sometimes come across as preciousness or lack of guts. This is one of his more uninvolving outtings. Bell is recessive and sensitive to a fault, rarely bringing forward any temperament. This is especially true in the Mendelssohn, where he takes great pains to spin out gorgeous tone without really digging into the music.

Given the presence of Roger Norrington, a noted (and not very inspired) period performance expert, I guess Bell's aim is to retreat from the romantic approach to Beethoven and Mendelssohn. But the temperature of his Beethoven is too low--where is the revolutionary? Tempos are traditional, however, and only the small-scale orchestra evokes a period flavor. I guess some listeners don't mind it when bell skims over the surface of a masterpiece as long as he does it prettily. (A fiveaway might be the album cover photo, which makes him look like the dewy adolescent who burst on the scene nearly twenty years ago.)
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The day of the Romantic performer returns 22 Nov 2002
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Joshua Bell has become an image for young classical musicians to emulate. He is not only a superbly gifted violinist and brilliant technician, but he also has heart and is not afraid to imbue his personality on the showpieces of the musical literature. That is why composers of concerti wrote cadenzas - to allow the performer to improvise on what the composer had writen and add his own spirit to the completion of the statement.
This recording does not show Bell in all his glory. The orchestra as conducted by Norrington feels leaden, never airily dancing in the same plane as Bell. The Mendelssohn survives this, but Bell's Beethoven longs for a more simpatico conductor with whom to corroborate. Still in all this is a good recording, another in a growing list of the variety of work that makes Joshua Bell a matinee idol. No empty '3 tenor' hype here, just a gifted romantic sharing his joy.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but not great 31 July 2002
By Michael Poole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is a fine recording of two of the greatest violin concertos in the standard repetoire. Although Bell's playing is usually excellent, it seems a little unsteady at times; not sloppy (not at all!) just not as tight as it could be. This might be okay if he brought something new to the interpretation of these pieces, but alas, he does not. The result is simply a better than average performance that doesn't really shine.
If you're looking for a truly spectacular recording of the Beethoven concerto, pick up Hilary Hahn's absolutely flawless and sparkling rendition. You will not be disappointed.
I still must recommend this Joshua Bell CD however if for no other reason than that he has contributed his own cadenzas to these standard works. I love to see young violinists make this effort as it can breathe new life into a tired piece. It makes a nice change of pace. However, if you're looking for your first versions of these concertos, you might try looking elsewhere.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No guts, no glory 31 Jan 2009
By D. DEGEORGE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I am afraid that this performance of the Beethoven, in spite of several virtues, is simply too underpowered. In addition, there is nothing special about the recording; rather, it makes the orchestra seem like a burly blob that comes in from time to time to disturb Bell's reverie. In the slow movement a bassoon drowns out Bell, who I thought was supposed to be the soloist.

In much of his playing Bell employs a stylistic device that seems to be trendy (Vadim Repin is among the others who do it) but that frustrates me greatly: instead of following through and sustaining a phrase, he lets it drop off toward the end. It's cute, and it defies the normal expectation and is therefore something of a novelty. There is a similar type of phrasing in Baroque music, which is supposed to be historically informed; and it produces a sing-songy, repeatedly-sighing undulation that can almost make one seasick after a while; but fortunately this performance only hints at that more extreme practice. Well, Beethoven was neither a Baroque composer nor prone to sighing, as far as I know; so I don't think the technique works well with his music at all; and it further weakens an already anemic approach to this concerto. Then at the very end of the piece there is a reversal of all the preceding reticence, in which the tempo is broken in order to deliver two emphatic closing chords. Finally, I am somewhat amazed that Joshua Bell's only recording of this is with a third-rate orchestra like the Camerata Salzburg. Maybe when he gets around to recording it with a world-class orchestra, he'll give a world-class performance.

For me the performance lacked necessary tension; but if relaxed is your thing, you might like this; and there are moments of poetry. Bell's playing is accurate (mostly), personal, and gentle; but I am not sure that that last attribute is a very good fit for Beethoven. I do give the interpretation credit for being different; and the cadenzas are interesting, too.

It is certainly desirable to have new performances that make the attempt to say something fresh about well-worn classics; but if you are looking for a first recording of the Beethoven concerto, one of the towering achievements of mankind, my suggestion is to get the Heifetz (with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony) Heifetz: Beethoven & Brahms Concertos (Beethoven: Concerto for violin in D; Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Op77)--it's a well-deserved classic now more than fifty years old that has been re-issued over and over again in practically every medium that has existed since its original release on tape and LP. Another reviewer on this site makes the case for the "Living Stereo" reissue Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto [Hybrid SACD] in which the entire disc is Heifetz/Munch/Boston; and this would be a way to get the same repertoire as on the Bell/Norrington disc. I believe that no library should be without at least one Heifetz recording of all the major violin concertos; but if there is one for which Heifetz is absolutely essential, it is the Beethoven. Heifetz's Mendelssohn is a wonder, of course; but there are many other versions I prefer; so I suggest pairing the Heifetz Beethoven with the Brahms, which I believe, like the Beethoven, benefits from Heifetz's intensity more than the Mendelssohn.

For many of us, one recording of the Beethoven violin concerto cannot possibly say all that needs to be said about the piece; and I would encourage the reader to seek out other performances (of which I'd guess there are easily twenty that surpass the Bell/Norrington). The Stern/Bernstein Beethoven: Violin Concerto, for example, brings out details that are lost at the rather fast tempi that Heifetz takes and that Bell and Norrington simply don't seem to have the energy to deliver.

I have only heard the Beethoven performance from this disc, which I found so disappointing that I felt compelled to write this review. I can easily imagine that the style of these performers suits the Mendelssohn rather better, as many of the reviews on this site point out. I have accordingly given the disc three stars even though the Beethoven performance only deserves two.
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