on 14 February 2012
Pairing concertos can be a great challenge. But Isabelle Faust has really thrown down the gauntlet by attempting both the Berg and Beethoven Violin Concertos within one recording. These are two supreme masterpieces: the former an aching confession; the latter a spry riot of style and symphonism. With Claudio Abbado as an idiomatic though never dogmatic presence on the disc, Faust does the impossible. She plunges the depths of the Berg, while totally commanding the heights of the Beethoven.
The Beethoven has, thankfully, been placed second on this recording (though is reviewed first). There is little ultimately to link these two works, though their sheer emotional variance gives rich yin and yang. In the Beethoven, Faust is elegant, punchy and vital. Her bow flies off the strings in the Rondo. Abbado and the Orchestra Mozart oblige with equally animated responses in this Classical cat and mouse. Although touched by a historically informed hand, this is nonetheless a romantic interpretation and the first movement delivers bold symphonic grandeur. Playing with heft and delicacy in equal measure, Faust is a prime contendor for this work.
Before such thrilling rhetoric, however, Berg offers the shock of emotional honesty. Hallucinatory, introverted, calm, Abbado unfolds its painful narrative through a slow but certain bloom. He avoids Beethovenian analysis while drawing individual lines with Mahlerian clarity. Faust is placed within the orchestra, another voice in the aching threnody. Where in the Beethoven, Faust's velvet-clad iron fist gave bounce, here it speaks of unedited emotion. The appearance of the Bach chorale at the end of the concerto slow pulls us out of our grief-stricken reverie, preparing us for the untrammelled joy of the Beethoven.
Although the disc is a recovery from intense mourning, the Berg has such power that you cannot help but wallow (and repeat) Faust and Abbado's performance. Yet the Beethoven is always there, offering a sunny counterpart and buttress. This is a wonderful recording of two pivotal works that you will listen to time and time again.
For me, whereas the music of Beethoven expresses the triumph of joy over adversity, that of Berg expresses wallowed-in-misery, a viewpoint stunningly enhanced by the juxtapositioning of these two great works on one CD. Beethoven's childhood wasn't a happy one, he wasn't good at making relationships, his love life was in turmoil and he went deaf at a relatively early age. He could have reflected all this in his music, but he didn't: he gives us only JOY coupled with the inspiration to overcome and win through in the face of every adversity. Berg, on the other hand, seems to be telling us: this is what suffering and misery is like: come and enter into my music and share the pain with me.
Maybe it all depends on whether or not we want someone to wallow in our own miseries with us or someone who lifts us right out of them into that joyous realm that's always there if only we would take the time to appreciate it. Is it possible for anyone to improve upon the recorded performance of all this by Isabelle Faust with the Orchestra Mozart conducted by Claudio Abbado? I don't think so. I'm so happy that I decided to buy this recording. For me, Isabelle Faust is obviously one of the greatest violinists of all time and, as I listen to her playing, I say to myself: 'This is the way to do it!'
I'm not a music expert; I just know what I like and can tell when something is well or poorly done. Some people are enamoured of pop stars. I prefer to confine that kind of admiration to the likes of Isabel Faust. I don't think I'm making a very good job of writing this review. All I can say is: this recording is great stuff. So just buy it and enjoy it just like I do.
on 26 February 2013
Many might see the coupling of the finest violin concerto of the classical period with that of the modern period as somewhat strange, but as the notes say, this coupling is a "dialogue", and for me it is a dialogue that works! On the one hand we have Beethoven, who in his concerto finally realises the potential of the violin as a solo instrument. Whilst on the other hand, Berg takes the use of the violin further as he gives it a voice as he has it portray the soul of "an Angel", the memory of the 18 year old daughter of Alma Mahler and Walter Gropius who had died a few months earlier.
Isabelle Faust has long been a favourite of mine; ever since she burst onto the scene with her recordings of the music of Bartók she has shown a wonderful technique along with a beautiful ability to phrase the music in order to show every emotion, and this recording is no different! Her ability to portray the anguish of loss that Berg felt about the death of Manon, and which he poured into the concerto, is tangible. While the joy of life which jumps off the page of Beethoven's concerto is there for all to hear. Faust's credentials as a Beethoven performer are not in question, her recordings of the complete sonatas with Alexander Melnikov are truly beautiful, while many held her earlier recording of the violin concerto (2007) to be the finest modern recording, it even became Radio 3's `Building a Library' choice. For me this earlier recording, with the Prague Philharmonia and Jiøí Bĕlohlávek, has been surpassed by this new recording, and not just in Faust's playing, but also in the orchestral playing which is tighter and more expressive under Abbado. The playing of the Orchestra Mozart under Claudio Abbado is excellent throughout, even in the Berg, were the interplay between Faust and the orchestra is more taught and beautiful than my old favourite recording, that of Perlman, the New York Phil and Seiji Ozawa.
This is a wonderful recording, one which has a sympathetic well balanced acoustic, and is backed up with excellent notes, all in all a highly recommendable recording, my new favourite recording of both these works!
on 23 November 2014
Berg's violin concerto is never going to replace Bruch at the top of Classic FM's list of classical favourites. The achievement of Isabelle Faust, Claudio Abbado and Orchestra Mozart is that they make this uncompromising work approachable and worth repeated listening to discover more of its secret depths and suffering. Throughout Faust and the orchestra play superbly and the recording brings out not just the solo violin but also the varied orchestral sounds of saxophone, tuba, contrabassoon and harp. With some of Abbado's DG recordings I have found the dynamic range too extreme for comfortable home listening: despite the wide dynamics of this concerto from quiet solos to orchestral tutti that is not a problem here, and Harmonia Mundi's engineers are to be congratulated that the end result sounds natural.
I already have recordings of the Beethoven concerto by Chung, Menuhin, Jansen and Kennedy so I really didn't need another. Faust's gorgeous tone and sense of line, the unanimity of soloist and orchestra, and the well balanced recording make this my new first choice.
This is a CD which has won many awards and had countless excellent reviews, and fully deserves them. Strongly recommended even if you already have other recordings of Beethoven's concerto.
on 15 November 2012
Beethoven and Berg may seem an odd coupling, but with these interpretations they seem somehow to be natural partners. The Beethoven feels as fresh as if it had just been written, and the Berg is utterly convincing. No two performances of Berg's concerto ever sound the same, even though Berg was meticulous in pointing the balance of the instruments (even using an alto sax to fill out the weaker part of the orchestral register). There are some interpretations that simply play the notes precisely as directed, as if the composer's strict construction made it into some sort of musical crossword puzzle. That certainly doesn't happen here. Without straying from Berg's marked dynamic instructions the performers and soloist still make the music a profound mixture of anger and regret. It had me weeping towards the end.
on 10 March 2015
Unfortunately this review has to be for the Beethoven concerto only.I had not previously heard the Berg before and did not immediately take to it.
I have now played ii three times and have enjoyed it more on on each occasion but it is not really "my music"and I have nothing with which to
compare the performance.
As far as the Beethoven is concerned I was delighted.My previous favorite was the Perlman/Giulini recording which I still love but I thought this
was at least as good.The cadenza that Faust plays is based on that written by Beethoven for his transcription for the piano and which is generally
considered to be the most successful part of that transcription.The accompaniment for the tympani is retained but the solo part is not retranscribed
note for note and certainly sounds to me to be totally in keeping with the violin.I really liked it.
Altogether I was totally satisfied with this performance and recording and willreturn to it again and again.It will also give me the chance to get to
know the Berg and I will now seek out further recordings by Isobel Faust.
on 29 December 2013
I'm not a great fan of Berg - I much prefer Webern - but this is obviously a great performance. Fortunately the same applies to the Beethoven, beautifully played, accompanied and recorded. A very special recording by a very special artist. Don't even hesitate!
This is a very fine recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in my view. Isabelle Faust has some phenomenal competition from recordings by the very greatest violinists (my collection includes Oistrakh, Perlman and Tetzlaff, for example) but she stands very well among them. Her fabulous virtuosity enables her to sail through the technical demands of the piece and to put her own emotional stamp on it. Her tone is lovely throughout and she brings real passion to the fiery passages and a true beauty and insight to the slow movement.
It's a lovely individual performance and Abbado's conducting adds weight and warmth to it. This is a smoothly-flowing orchestral performance, clearly deeply thought about and beautifully executed. The recorded sound is rounded and resonant which I like a lot, although it does occasionally blur the sharp detail. It's a cracking performance and I think the enthusiastic reviews it has received are well justified.
And now a confession: I don't like the Berg Violin Concerto. Sorry, but I just don't. I fully accept that this is a failing in me and no reflection on the music, but I have tried several times over the years and it does nothing for me whatsoever. I was hoping that this performance might change that, but no luck. This means, of course, that I am in no position to review Isabelle Faust's performance for which I apologise. I'm afraid you will have to ask someone else about it.
That said, I think this disc is worth it for the Beethoven alone. I think that the Perlman/Giulini recording (included in a fantastic budget set of concerti Great Romantic Violin Concertos) remains my personal favourite, but this is certainly among the best I know, and very warmly recommended.
I'm not a great fan of the Berg but if there were a version to convert me this would be it. the Betthoven is very desirable indeed and is surely up there with the great historic versions.
An easy recomendation.
on 30 July 2014
This recording has been received with the kind of awe that is reserved for Abbado as he struggled through the last part of his life under the shadow of death, but I think the praise is warranted -- not because of "depth" or any special kind of elegiac expressiveness, but because these are lucid, beautifully recorded performances. Santa Fe Listener thinks the violin too prominent in the aural mix, but, listening on my Bose headphones I didn't feel that, though I admit I'm not familiar with many recordings of the Berg concerto. I was struck here by the opening of the second movement -- after a first that seemed to me suggestive of the life and beauty of the young girl whose death occasioned the piece -- where grief seems to break out, only to be brought back within the realm of order and beauty by the end of the movement. Much of the music lies in the middle and lower range of the violin, and Faust plays with great feeling and beauty of tone.
The Beethoven is as good a performance as I've heard from a violinist in the digital era. Nothing fancy or unusual -- except maybe the marvelous first movement cadenza -- but Abbado's control of the dynamics and tempo adjustments seem right and natural, and Faust enters into the conversation with the orchestra with a sense of playfulness and humor in the outer movements. The slow movement is wonderfully rapt, with the delicacy of Faust's playing almost miraculous at times -- as if she's breathing on the strings rather than playing with the bow. So all in all, a lovely recording of two great concertos.