Presto News - 15th July 2013
Isabelle Faust performs Bartók Violin Concertos
Violinist Isabelle Faust's first recording, released back in 1997, was of Bartók Sonatas on Harmonia Mundi. A tremendous disc, it was widely acclaimed and won her the Gramophone Young Artist of the Year shortly afterwards. Since then she has established herself as one of the finest players of her generation, but only now has she decided to record the two Bartók Concertos, here accompanied by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding.
The two Concertos date from radically different periods of the composer’s life and are separated by almost thirty years. The First Concerto was written in 1908 for the young violinist Stefi Geyer, with whom Bartók was in love at the time. However, she didn’t reciprocate and the composition ended up locked in a drawer and was not performed until after the composer’s death.
I don’t really think of Bartók as a ‘romantic’ composer but the slow first movement here, (marked Andante sostenuto) is full of pining and searching. Faust plays with a tenderness and sensitivity which, combined with her sweet and lyrical tone, make a compelling opening to this disc. The second movement, alternating between faster, more lively themes and more reflective passages, is more ‘typical’ of what you would associate with Bartók. The scoring is rich, and there is some wonderful cheeky interplay between the soloist and the winds of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which comes off with real style and panache.
The Second Concerto (dating from 1938) is rightly the more famous work, and indeed has become one of the cornerstones of the violin repertoire. It was premiered in Amsterdam on 23rd March, 1939 by Zoltán Székely (to whom Bartók dedicated the work), accompanied by Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. By coincidence I realise this actual performance is in the new Mengelberg Concertgebouw box we mentioned amongst last week’s new releases!
This concerto shows Bartók as a mature composer encompassing the various strands and styles which he had embraced through his life. There are still elements of romanticism, but equally striking is the rhythmic and astringent vitality, suggestions of folk music, as well as aspects of twelve-tone and other more contemporary techniques and styles. All cast within a traditional ‘classical’ three-movement structure it perhaps surprisingly comes together to form a powerful and impressive work.
Faust combines technical brilliance with a performance full of bite and character. Wide-ranging dynamics are not just well defined by loud and soft, but by distinct textural variety also, with for example the grit and guts of the last movement a million miles away from the hushed intensity of the middle movement.
There seems to be a natural affinity with Daniel Harding and his orchestra, who offer vivid accompaniment throughout and no shortage of incisive rawness of their own where required. The sound is well balanced throughout and it is generally very hard to find fault.
To coincide with this new recording we’ve put together a special offer across Isabelle Faust’s main catalogue of recordings, with discounts of up to 25% off (including this new recording). The new disc is released in two weeks' time (on the 29th July) but you can listen to samples, watch a fairly long video interview, and, if you like it (which I sincerely hope you do), pre-order it now via the links below.
Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Isabelle Faust (violin), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
15th July 2013
Schubert: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-21 (complete)
Paul Badura-Skoda (fortepiano)
This recording of the complete piano sonatas on period instruments, which took place in Vienna between 1991 and 1996, was recorded by Paul Badura-Skoda on the instruments in his own collection. The choice of period instruments responds to a quest for colours favouring a greater intimacy with the composer’s music, permitted by the use of only those instruments which Schubert knew, which he used and for which he actually wrote his music.
Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (arranged for Chamber Ensemble)
Royal Academy of Music Ensemble, Trevor Pinnock
Trevor Pinnock conducts the Royal Academy of Music Ensemble in chamber arrangements of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Arranged for Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances, these reductions were designed to highlight the fresh perspective a stripped-back orchestration could offer the listener. Erwin Stein’s visionary transformation of Mahler’s neo-classicist symphony is for fifteen players and soprano.
Hugo Wolf: The Complete Songs Volume 6
Birgid Steinberger (soprano), Anna Huntley (mezzo), Benjamin Hulett (tenor), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) & Sholto Kynoch (piano)
The sixth disc in the first-ever complete Hugo Wolf song series. Includes the sacred part of his Spanish songbook and his rarely heard Lenau settings, including four world-première recordings. Part of the Oxford Lieder Live series, a unique collaboration between the famous Oxford Lieder Festival and Stone Records.
Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1 & Piano Concerto No. 1
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano), Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Lan Shui
Completed in 1891 and 1895 respectively, the Piano Concerto No. 1 and the D minor Symphony were Sergei Rachmaninov’s first large-scale orchestral compositions, written by a young man still in his early 20s. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Lan Shui have previously impressed critics worldwide with their performances of Rachmaninov's Second and Third Symphonies, and are joined by the piano soloist Yevgeny Sudbin.
Christian Thielemann: My Wagner Album
Various Artists - Thielemann, Karajan, Kleiber etc
On My Wagner Album, Christian Thielemann – a passionate Wagnerite and celebrated Wagner conductor – has brought together some of his favourite recordings from the masters of the past and present: Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Karajan, Kleiber and Boulez; he also offers two of his own Wagner recordings.
Hindemith: Violin Concerto and Sonatas
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Enrico Pace (piano), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi
Frank Peter Zimmermann, who in 2010 was awarded the international Paul Hindemith Prize of the City of Hanau, makes a great case for these works. In the concerto Zimmermann teams up with Paavo Järvi, another recipient of the Paul Hindemith Prize and principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Daniel Barenboim conducts Berlioz & Liszt
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim
After Decca’s best-selling Beethoven For All campaign comes a celebration of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s 10th anniversary in a stunning Berlioz recording from the 2009 BBC Proms. The album contains Berlioz’s revolutionary Symphonie Fantastique, alongside Liszt’s colourful Les Préludes.
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Mariss Jansons conducts Brahms & Janáček (DVD)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons
Filmed at the Lucerne Easter Festival 2012, Mariss Jansons conducts Brahms's Symphony No. 2 in D major and Janáček's Glagolitic Mass. The Bavarian Radio Chorus complements the instrumental ensemble of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra to “give a compelling reading with an enormous breadth of dynamics and an impressive presence, and with the Slovak-Russian quartet guaranteeing idiomatic soli” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung).
Blu-ray version also available here.
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