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An original and inspired coupling of the three concertos,
This review is from: Violin Concertos (Ehnes) (Audio CD)
This disc from 2006, considered to be well recorded by most but not all listeners, has created a unique and rewarding coupling by bringing together these three particular concertos. The three works were written on very similar dates, the Walton between 1938-9 than revised in 1943, the Barber being from 1939-40 and the Korngold in 1945.
The Korngold concerto is unusual insofar as the composer made extensive use of his previous successful film scores for thematic material. The Barber concerto is unusual insofar as the initial two movements are sufficiently focussed upon lyrical writing that the intended recipient complained that they did not contain sufficient display material but when faced with the contrasting fireworks of the final movement the same recipient complained of the movements extreme difficulty. The Walton concerto on the other hand, suffered from no such problems other than typical slowness in composition and then some revision.
All three works share an intense lyricism which has served both the Barber and Walton concertos well but the cinematic links to the Korngold concerto have been damaging and it has been difficult for it to get established upon the international concert circuit so far. This disc should help in that regard as Ehnes produces what seems to be a masterly performance of the Korngold playing it for its full romantic value and with complete technical assurance. Technical assurance is also vividly apparent in his delivery of the demanding final movement of the Barber concerto and of the challenging second movement of the Walton concerto while the strong lyrical requirements of all three concertos are equally well met.
There is little recorded challenge to Ehnes' recording of the Korngold concerto and relatively little so far in the increasingly taken-up Barber concerto. Joshua Bell would be one of the strongest competitors in that regard, also offering the Walton concerto, but is otherwise differently coupled with Bloch's shorter Baal Shem replacing the Korngold concerto presented on this disc.
Both Bell and Ehnes provide excellent versions of the Walton concerto where the competition is much more severe. Kyung Wha Chung made an award winning recording with Previn in the 1970's still available as a single disc but now re-coupled with the Elgar cello concerto in a fine performance by Harrell. Previn also conducted the justifiably admired version with Kennedy coupled with a strongly delivered viola concerto. Ida Haendel's version of the Walton, coupled with Britten's concerto, is also admired in many quarters and Dong-Suk Kang's version coupled with the cello concerto on Naxos is an obvious bargain.
In terms of the latest versions, I would suggest that this disc by Ehnes is as good as any and certainly one of the top choices from any vintage of recorded history. It clearly deserves to be be seriously considered as a purchase option by all interested collectors, especially those interested in its unique and intriguing combination of concertos representing the same historical period.