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Isabelle Faust's first recording for harmonia mundi, Bartok Sonatas, won her a Gramophone Young Artist of the Year.
Here she returns to Bartok, perfoming the two concertos, accompanied by Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio SO.
Such is the fame of Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto (1937-38), that it has virtually eclipsed the First, written 30 years before. Yet, this earlier work, rediscovered long after the composer’s death, has a fascinating story all of its own. True to form, Isabelle Faust has gone back to the multiple musical sources of this First Concerto, a work that came ‘straight from the heart’, as Bartók’s romance with a young violinist lay at the core of its creative process.
"I owe my enthusiasm for the music of Béla Bartók to the wonderful Hungarian violinist Dénes Zsigmondy, who was privileged to know the composer personally. At the age of eleven, I was lucky enough to study the Sonata for solo violin with him and thus to discover Bartók’s world in a very emotional and instinctive way. In the years since then, Dénes Zsigmondy, his conception of music, and especially his interpretation of Bartók have formed an important component of my artistic career. It seemed only logical to choose the Bartók sonatas for my debut CD. I am now delighted to present the two violin concertos in this recording. It is intended as a musical expression of my admiration for the composer Béla Bartók and my gratitude for the continued inspiration and faithful friendship of Dénes Zsigmondy. My warm thanks go to László Somfai and László Vikárius of the Bartók Archives in Budapest and to Felix Meyer of the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel for their generous support of this project. Finally, I would like to express my profound appreciation of and indebtedness to Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra for their absolutely fantastic contribution to the recording sessions." Isabelle Faust
“Faust...relishes i[the First's] warmth and volatility while respecting its musical integrity. The second concerto exemplifies Bartók’s mature synthesis of traditional and modern styles. I do not share leading violinists’ faith in its greatness, but Faust puts her unshowy brilliance at its service.”
1st August 2013
“Faust finds an ideal tonal pungency to voice the folk-like intonations, whether fiery or wistfully fragile, which she allies to a natural sweetness and flexibility of timbre and phrasing. The orchestra is a potent force, too, in underpinning the rhythms and radiating colour. A compelling disc.”
8th August 2013
“Faust plays with sweet ecstasy in the passionate first movement [of No. 1], lyrically opulent enough to suggest Richard Strauss. She’s equally impressive in the puckish second movement, kicked into life by gawky solo notes played without vibrato — one of her research discoveries...Music to cherish.”
8th August 2013
“probably the most beautiful and subtly nuanced version [of No. 1] available. The same intelligence is very much at work in the second concerto...Harding, sometimes a variable Bartókian, is clean, committed and incisive here. Make sure you read Faust's own essay in the sleevenotes: she writes about Bartók as persuasively as she plays him.”
11th August 2013
“[Harding and the orchestra] bring a glittering, sometimes gritty edge to Bartok’s scoring — and underscore her detailed readings of this deeply felt, violently passionate music. In Faust’s powerful performance, the long solo of the first concerto’s opening andante sostenuto sounds like a lament for lost love”
“Faust resists the kind of full-blown romantic ardour that might seem appropriate to music inspired by a protracted love affair. Instead she weaves her sinewy melodic line in a more introverted manner...The effect is totally magical...[in the Second Concerto] Fausts draws you into the ebb and flow of the musical narrative”
“Faust negotiates the composer’s idealised fantasising with a poetic sensitivity that captures the almost cinematic cut-and-thrust of the music’s churning emotions… She finds the perfect match in Daniel Harding’s lucid accompaniments and sound of exceptional textural transparency.”
The Arts Desk
31st August 2013
“it’s to the credit of Faust and Harding that this compelling, elusive music never feels shapeless, and the livelier second movement is cheeky, gutsy and pungent. Beautifully recorded, and Faust’s self-penned sleeve notes make fascinating reading.”
“everything registers in this richly conceived performance”
18th September 2013
“solo playing of sensitivity and playfulness and an orchestral sound that fits it like a hand to a glove...This disc is a winner. The sensitivity of the playing and the empathy of the orchestral accompaniment put it in a very special class which is worthy of comparison with any other set in the catalogue.”
15th July 2013
“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...here 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.”
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