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Szymanowski: Violin Concertos 1 & 2; Britten: Violin Concerto CD
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Eastern exoticism, French impressionism and perfumed lyricism: Polish composer Karol Szymanowski in war-torn Europe in 1916 providing ecstasy without the agony in what he called “a new style and new type of expression for the violin”.
There’s a post-Wagnerian romantic weight, blended with Scriabin’s unbridled sensuality, and a Ravel-ian lushness and refinement of orchestration, and it takes special soloist to soar with the effortless virtuosity Szymanowski demands. Frank Peter Zimmerman is just that, as anyone who heard him at the 2006 Proms in the First Concerto with Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic will know. And while that orchestra’s luxurious sophistication can’t quite be matched by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Antoni Wit, this is an experienced set of Szymanowskians, and it shows in the assurance with which they handle the free-flowing tempos, and the Second Concerto’s more complex textures and Polish folk influences.
If I still have a slight preference for Thomas Zehetmair’s EMI recording with Rattle and the CBSO, for its special sense of freedom and assurance, you might be wondering why you should bother with this new one at all. Well, these are still some of the finest Szymanowski Concerto performances committed to disc, and if you don’t buy it you don’t get to hear Zimmermann in an imperious account of Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto. It’s from 1939, and tougher in its way than Szymanowski’s 2nd, which was written six years earlier; the opening timpani solo nods in the direction of two great violin concertos. Not just the start of the Beethoven, but also the bare open strings of Alban Berg, whose posthumous premiere Britten had heard in Barcelona in 1936.
Zimmermann’s sweetness of tone and intense, unselfish musicality pay dividends in Britten, and the orchestral score snaps into focus through the playing of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck – just listen to their muscular grip on the scherzo second movement, before Britten’s cadenza propels us into one of the most unforgettable accounts of the final Passacaglia I’ve ever heard. Impeccably recorded, too – the Britten’s not just a generous coupling, it really is the icing on the cake. --Andrew McGregor
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Top Customer Reviews
I had the privilege of hearing Zimmermann perform the first Szymanowski concerto in Chicago with Boulez conducting in March 2009. I was totally unfamiliar with the concerto but was an avid fan of Zimmermann's recordings of all the standard violin repertoire from Baroque to early 20th century. As well, this was the first occasion that I was to experience hearing Zimmermann live. Thus, an exciting event on more than one level.
The performance of the Szymanowski was magically enchanting with an incredibly amazing sense of fantasy and improvisatory music-making. As is his trademark, Zimmermann performed with his supreme technical finesse and command that served to communicate an incredibly long thread of musical ideas and emotions. The chamber-music rapport between the soloist and Chicago Symphony was wonderful such that Zimmermann at times blended into the soundscape of the orchestra while at others rising above with either full singing lines or virtuosic pyrotechnics. And such elegance and beauty of sound also belied great wit and intelligence in his entire reading. The cadenza was an amazing spectacle of violin-playing that had the audience in complete silence and focus. And when Zimmermann concluded the concerto with the trill and harmonics, the audience immediately understood the wit and sparkle of this work and provided a rapturous applause.Read more ›
Personally I believe that his interpretation of Britten's Violin Concerto is magisterial. Like I said before, there is a sweetness to the sound and vibrato, which he maintains throughout the whole work, yet he varies his tone in order to really convey the multifarious nature of each movement. The harmonics and double/triple stopping is delivered with such assurance and clarity it is astonishing. I should also say that the orchestral contribution in all three concertos is first rate - I especially loved the colourful interjections in the Britten, brought out by a wonderfully detailed and atmospheric recorded sound.
The Britten is not bad either. His concerto is better known and more often reocrded. I must ademit I| have preferred recrodings,
The bonus is the Britten concerto, which is also excellent.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Superb playing and interpretations - The first movement of the Britten is very legato....threading a long, singing line -
different to others performances I have but very... Read more