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4.5 out of 5 stars
6
4.5 out of 5 stars
Szymanowski - Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 16 June 2009
For those new to the Szymanowski concertos they will be a real find. the first concerto, one of his finest works, will sound particularly rhapsodic and free. There are, however, a limited number of themes repeated presented in a colourful variety of ways. There is a chromatic main theme that crowns the concerto's big climax. In one movement, the concerto sounds almost improvisatory in its progress with the most lush and colourful late romantic orchestration. Harmonically, as alluded to above, it is quite chromatic without threatening to break with tonality. The highly coloured orchestration shows the influence of early Stravinsky, as do other works of this period such as the Third Symphony (Song of the Night) and his opera King Roger.

Most concertos end with a flourish to please the crowds but this work has the confidence to end quietly after so many preceding pyrotechnics. Free in from it may be but every step sounds like a natural progression fromthe previous material.

The second concerto, whilst continuing with the single movement structure, is a more sober affair. By this stage in his career, Szymanowski was incorporating more polish folk like material into his music. The work concerto though in one movement breaks down into more distinct sections than the first concerto. It begins more soberly than the first and alternates with more dance like material. This concerto ends with a flourish but lacks the excitement of the first. Again the orchestration and harmonies are still very rich and dense, though there is less emphasis on sparkling orchestral colour.

Szymanowski's two very rich and energetic violin concertos receive first rate and sympathetic performances. Antoni Wit has an excellent record with Naxos and this recording is no exception with the soloist equal to the demands of both works. If you want to explore Szmanowski's music you'd be mad to miss out on this fantastic bargain - it's more than a match for the competition.
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on 13 January 2013
Szymanovski developed his own language and what he said with it was everything we need to hear. The first violin concerto stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it and this performance stops me over and over again. Flair and emotion bring life changing harmonics to everyone who can hear. And anyone who can hear will never be the same.
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on 13 July 2009
The 1st Concerto is another example of Szymanowski's Slavic/Byzantine/Sufi-Gnostic mysticism in the important musical genre of Night Music which - unlike for example the Empty Sublime of Bartok's Night Music in 'Music For Strings Percussion And Celeste' and the slow movements of the quartets, or the numerous examples in Shostakovich slow movements - does include the Pleasure Principle in sensuous good measure, and aims for sheer beauty and a Sublime of rich fullness in the climaxes.
'Veni Creator' and the 3rd Symphony share much of the same ethos, but here in addition we have the long, and often very high, transcendentally lyrical line of the violin.
Beauty AND the Sublime. What more could you want? Usually you get one or the other, or much more time given to one, or an equal amount of time given to other expressive concerns - but here, these often mutually exclusive aesthetic preoccupations, are the sole aims. It is very unusual to access the Sublime at all in a violin concerto of course. I can only think of the Sibelius off-hand and that is not one of my favourites.
This is as far as late Romanticism was able to go in the direction of Nature Mysticism and, in venturing into the Eastern exotic, or esoteric, left the Germans, and us, far behind in what by comparison seems almost like ordinary everyday consciousness. The only German equivalents I can think of are the early late-Romantic works of Webern, but I stress that they are GERMAN equivalents and sound nothing like the works under consideration here.The only ENGLISH equivalent I can think of is the Tallis Fantasia and perhaps the Serenade to Music (also about the night) by the same composer, or something much less well known like York Bowen's symphonic poem 'Eventide'. Which is not to say that there aren't passages in many other works that don't touch on it also ( e.g. the nocturnal episode in the first movement of Elgar's 1st Symphony) But none of them either sound much like this concerto or have the same quality of intense mystical ecstacy.

The first part of the 2nd Concerto has material much like the 1st but otherwise it largely features the introduction of a great deal of folk material which is characteristic of Szymanowski's later music. There are reminiscences later in the piece of the earlier spiritual or mystical tendency but they give the impression of struggling to maintain their place and eventually are overwhelmed again by the folk material and a new wordliness that appears at the end. But it is also a wonderful piece suggesting that the composer is coming out into the light of day or coming to terms with the social world, and in the early parts more complex and dense in texture than the 1st concerto. It is a piece of modern music whereas the 1st concerto belongs to another, older world.

The old budget Marco Polo version with Kulka and Stryja is also well worth having. The sound is good, but recorded in 1988.
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on 11 February 2015
Very pleased with this cd and it arrived much earlier than I expected.
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on 1 November 2016
AAA
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on 18 July 2015
If you had never heard Frank Peter Zimmerman's recorded performance, you would think that this was as good as it gets. Unfortunately, Frank Peter points out what else Ilya Kaler could have gotten from the music. It is as if Ilya plays in two dimensions against Frank Peter's three dimensions.

A good try but knocked out by the competition.

Perhaps Ilya should borrow a Strad like the one Frank Peter was using when he made his recording (now, lamentably, never being played in a bank's vault)? Was that the real difference?
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