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Violin Concertos 1 & 2 (Sitkovetsky)

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£20.31 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we dispatch the item. Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Vn Con No.1: I. Andante Sostenuto
  2. Vn Con No.1: II. Allegro Giocoso
  3. Vn Con No.2: I. Allegro Non Troppo
  4. Vn Con No.2: II. Andante
  5. Vn Con No.2: II. Allegro Molto

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (almost) exclusively lyrical Bartok - interesting for its very radicalism of approach 11 Oct. 2010
By Discophage - Published on
I had read tepid reviews of this recording, and while I perfectly understand why they would have been, I'd like to give a more positive assessment. Sitkovetsky stresses the gentle and lyrical aspect of Bartok's Concerto, and stays aloof of its more raw and driving nature. The approach is very similar to the nearly contemporary Zukerman (with Slatkin, Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2- Alternate Ending / Viola Concerto, Op. Posth.), but more radical still. Not that Sitkovetsky can't be as scurrying as anybody in the more urgent moments; for instance, at 7:44 in the first movement ("vivace", "risoluto", starting measure 160), he is. But in general even those faster sections are taken with a measure of deliberation, in keeping with his general conception that makes him take the slow and lyrical passages, especially in the first movement, slower than anybody, to the point at times of reaching a near standstill (try at 2:55, "calmo", at 7:21, "sempre più tranquillo" - it is fortunate Bartok didn't follow with an "encore più tranquillo" indication, because Sitkovetsky would have had to stop - or again at 11:40, "pù calmo"); the effect can be quite beautiful, eliciting a hushed, mysterious and nocturnal atmosphere; Sitkovetsky's certainly is one of the most songful versions I have heard, and he plays with beautiful tone throughout. The result is a first movement that, at 17:49, is the most spacious ever encountered, and by a wide margin: the premiere performer, Zoltan Szekely, who had prepared the Concerto under Bartok's supervision and gave a version of unequalled fire, took it in 14:30 (Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2), and the expansive Shaham-Boulez complete it in 16:30 (Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2; Rhapsodies Nos. 1 & 2). The sonics are fine, and though powerful (especially when you crank up the volume) the Philharmonia brass under conductor Libor Pesek lack a degree of snap, but that too fits the general conception. Same approach in the slow movement, whose theme Sitkovetsky takes slower than anybody (1:50, compare with Bartok's indication of 1:18, with Szekely's 1:15 or Isaac Stern's slow 1:35, A Life In Music: Isaac Stern, Volume 9) and totally out of style, turning it into something like a sentimental romance (Bartok's slow movements should be atmospheric, NOT sentimental); but then, again, Sitkovetsky is very consistent in his approach, never rushing even in the faster variations, and there too it can yield beautiful results, as when Pesek conjures the haunting, brooding atmosphere of Bluebeard's Castle at 6:06, or in the marvelously hushed coda. But why Sitkovetsky's rhythmic quirks of phrasing in the first variation, I don't know. While still one of the most expansive (topped by a few seconds by Shaham-Boulez), Sitkovetsky's finale doesn't draw as much attention upon itself, because Sitkovetsky isn't so extreme in the more lyrical sections, and in the faster ones the forward-moving dynamism is replaced by a massive orchestral power. There Sitkovetsky can be suitably gritty (but never at the expense of beauty of tone), while finely responsive to Bartok's "grazioso" markings in the lyrical passages.

Some - and I include myself - might contend that Bartok without the drive and rawness isn't fully Bartok. Still, I find Sitkovetsky interesting for his very radicalism. He has chosen an option and, however disputable it was, he has been consistent with it and pushed it to its limits. I certainly wouldn't recommend this version of the VC #2 if you have only one - and even as a 2nd or 3rd; there are too many important versions (Szekely's premiere performance, Menuhin's premiere recording in 1947 Legendary Performers: MENUHIN, Gitlis The Art of Ivry Gitlis, Stern (see link above), Perlman in 1974 - hard to find outside of the 20-CD Perlman box, Itzhak Perlman Collection -, Chung in 1977 Violin Concerti 1 & 2, to limit myself to the "historicals" and pre-digitals) that should take precedence over this interesting but eminently skewed view of the work - but if you are seriously studying Bartok's Concerto I'd certainly recommend giving it a hear, as one of the most radical "alternative" versions.

It is those very qualities of lyricism, that are so disputable when applied so uexclusively in the mature 1938 Concerto, that make Sitkovetsky's reading of Bartok's youthful Concerto from 1907 so good. Basically, since the premiere recording by Isaac Stern and Eugene Ormany (1961, see link above) of the newly discovered composition (it got its premiere performance under conductor and generous patron of music Paul Sacher in 1958), two conceptions have been brought to bear on the slow-moving, lyrical first movement: one, possibly more immediately effective - the approach favored by Stern, in great sonics, and by his two immediate recordings successors from 1962, Gertler (with Ferencsik - but no more authorized links. See ASIN B000VX1QFE ) and Oistrakh (with Rozhdestvenski, a great version, unfortunately let down by the crude and rustic early Soviet stereo, Szymanowski Violin Concerto No 1; Bartok Violin Concerto No. 1 ; Hindemith: Violin Concerto (Urania)) and closer to us by Midori (ASIN B00000270Y) and Kremer (B001AVZN3W) to mention only the best ones - that is indeed very slow, with a pulse almost to the note rather than to the beat (it is a 6/8 time signature), highlighting the ecstatic, time-suspended nature of the music; the other, more flowing (and truer to Bartok's metronome marks), which is the one Sitkovetsky adopts - and brings off brilliantly, thanks to a tone that remains luminous and intense (unlike, in a similar approach, the husky Menuhin, ASIN B0000CE7FG, and the dryer Chung, link above), bringing out a more plangent, wistful, dreamy atmosphere, but equally convincing. I may find Pesek's transition to the "poco meno sostenuto" at 4:48 a tad abrupt (yet he is here slightly under Bartok's metronome indication) and his climax at 6:40-7:00 somewhat underpowered, but these are petty details: Sitkovetsky's radiant tone wins the day here. Likewise, in the scherzando second movement Sitkovetsky may lack the last touch of forward drive (especially amiss in the coda), and the orchestra a measure of vivid sound and clarity of details that single out the best versions (Stern-Ormandy have both and Kremer-Boulez has the sonics), but Sitkovetsky again plays with unfailing beauty of tone and near-perfection of execution: I would only question his pitch-accuracy in the stratospheric line at 0:21: it is one-bar long. On the other hand, the double stops at 3:13, which can sounded a bit scrawny even with the best fiddlers, are as beautifully and sweetly realized as I've ever heard them.
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