on 10 April 2009
Frank Peter Zimmermann's move from EMI to Sony Classical has allowed listeners to follow his performances from afar. For those of us who do not live in the major musical capitals of Europe and the US, Zimmermann's ongoing but infrequent recordings are especially welcome.
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.
This recording offers all of the above-mentioned traits and unique strengths that are so characteristic of Zimmermann's integrity as a true, dedicated musician. The recording balance on all three of the concerti is excellent which, again, allows for the blending and emergence of Zimmermann's sound both with and above the orchestra(s).
The Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit conducting are superb collaborators with Zimmermann on the two Szymanowski concerti. Again, there is energy and supreme virtuosity which are deceptively non-apparent as they serve to bring the works to life. Zimmmermann is masterful at varying his tone-colors, vibrato, bow speed/pressure/strokes while never losing the singing quality to all the passages. The complete control of pitch and marriage with the most perfect bow-arm is unbelievable. Such purity of violin-playing with a genuine musical purpose is the constant of Zimmermann's performance aura and identity.
The Swedish Radio Symphony with Manfred Honeck conducting is also beautifully supportive and engaging with Zimmermann in the Britten Violin Concerto. The chamber music rapport coupled with the soloist's absolute concentration and lively exchange with the orchestra, again, combine to provide the listener with a real performance that is unfolding bar-by-bar. Zimmermann converses 'in the zone' with the timpani and bassoons in several passages; the recording engineers have beautifully captured a gorgeous orchestral sound that is full, deep, rich, brilliant and real as in a concert hall.
Zimmermann has never been an autopilot virtuoso or incomplete musician who has yet to form or convince a musical purpose in the works he performs. If you have never heard these violin concerti previously, the performances will reach you such that there is no other choice but to enjoy them and marvel at the artistry of Zimmermann. And to appreciate the composer's creations. Another rewarding offering by this violinists' violinist.
on 23 February 2015
"Wonderful" is not a word that is enough to say how utterly fantastic this CD is. The Szymanowski has not been recorded better. I have known these two concertos for some time and heard them live and recorded. But, listening to this recording is like hearing a whole new dimension. The playing of Zimmermann is just perfect. However, the orchestra and conductor are just as good. And the recording engineers allow you to hear it all with a clarity that is rare in recordings. Conductor Anton Wit knows these pieces better than any other conductor and he is probably at the peak of his career now. If you do not know these concertos, they are late romantic masterpieces: the influences of Straiuss, Bartock and a pinch of Stravinsky create a unique sound world. To the modern listener, there is a lot to remind one of film soundtracks (Korngold). These recordings bring out the full depth of the music: I can recoomend them.
The Britten is not bad either. His concerto is better known and more often reocrded. I must ademit I| have preferred recrodings,
on 20 July 2011
This is a recording I will treasure. Here we have three fantastic violin concertos performed by one of the finest violinists of our time. Frank Peter Zimmerman isn't just a virtuosic performer, he is an incredible musician who is able to dig deep into the personality of each of these concertos. As well as the flawless technique, Zimmerman has a beguilingly sweet tone which I find irresistible in this repertoire (I wonder whether he uses gut strings...?). One could call the Szymanowski concerti 'perfumed' pieces (especially the 1st concerto, with its almost decadent impressionism), but Zimmerman shows us so much colour and imagination that it is hard not to be drawn in.
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.
on 1 July 2013
I have another recording of the Szymanowski pieces by the same orchestra and conductor, but with a different solist - on the Naxos label. It is also very good, but it is the clarity of this recording and Zimmerman's playing that set this apart. Szymanoski's concertos are quite unailke, which makes them all the more interesting. With this recording so much more of the full orchestration is noticeable, which really adds to the enjoyment of the pieces. The second violin concerto is often considered the lesser of the two pieces, but again the very full sound that this recording delivers really made me listen.
The bonus is the Britten concerto, which is also excellent.