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Rózsa & Bartók: Viola Concertos
The British viola player Lawrence Power continues to be acclaimed as one of the greatest performers of today. Together with Hyperion he is recording all of the seminal twentieth-century works for the viola.
Of the three Hungarian works for viola and orchestra on this latest release, the best-known is Bartok’s viola concerto, completed after the composer’s death by Tibor Serly. Serly was Bartók’s most constant and trusted Hungarian musicianfriend in his last years in the USA. William Primrose (who edited the viola part himself) was able to premiere Serly’s recension of the music on 2 December 1949, with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. Almost immediately it was recognized as one of the major contributions to the small literature of concertos for the viola, and has been a cornerstone of the instrument’s repertoire ever since. Serly’s own Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra dwells somewhat within Bartok’s shadow, but is nevertheless a skilful and elaborate work with a rollocking finale. The disc is completed by a modern viola concerto by the film composer Miklós Rósza. The overall impression of the work is individual, darkly Romantic, and authentically Hungarian in inspiration.
“Power’s supreme artistry fuels performances of works by composers who are linked...All are energised by the orchestra’s vigour.” The Telegraph, 13th September 2010 *****
“a wonderfully imaginative piece of record programming...The superb accounts of the Bartok concerto and Serly’s short yet compelling Rhapsody only enhance this set’s desirability.” Sunday Times, 3rd October 2010 ****
“Power treats each piece on its own terms and the comparison turns out to be a telling one...[His] immaculate sense of line, and his charismatic sound, is a balm in Bartok's understated concerto. This performance is up there with the best.” Classic FM Magazine, December 2010 ****
“everything comes across with maximum impact - his agility at speed, his warm 'walnut' tone...and the innate musicality of his phrasing. Andrew Litton is in total command of every aspect of the score...An exceptional release in every way.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2010
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Rozsa - Viola Concerto
Budapest Concert Orchestra MÁV, Mariusz Smolij
The spirit of his native Hungary is seldom far away from the concert music of Miklós Rózsa, in spite of some 55 years spent in Hollywood and his long association with music for the cinema.
His Viola Concerto, the later of the two works presented here, was written in 1979 – at the request of Piatigorsky for the young Pinchas Zuckerman, who gave its first performance – and brings with it a certain astringency reminiscent of Bartók rather than Kodály.
“Rósza's… Viola Concerto composed in 1979 for the young Pinchas Zuckerman, is perhaps his finest work altogether, a brooding, passionate and eventually enlivening utterance that deserves to stand with the Walton and Bartók concertos and Bloch's Viola Suite. There was an excellent version from Paul Silverthorne and the NZSO on Koch International, but though Gilad Karni is rather close-miked here I prefer his account, both more intimate and earthier, authentically Hungarian and more sombre in colouring.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2009 *****
“The recording industry's sustained interest in Rózsa's concert music is heartening and this new disc from Naxos is its latest manifestation. Both works exhibit fully the strengths and appeal of the composer's output as a whole, from its impeccable craftsmanship to its lilting Hungarian accent. The personal voice – close stylistically at times to Kodály and Bartók – is recognisably that of the film composer whose music graced the silver screen for so long.
The Hungarian Serenade started life in the early 1930s as his Op 10 for strings but Ernö von Dohnányi persuaded the young composer to recast it for a larger orchestra with a punchier finale. The work underwent several further revisions before emerging as the work given here.
It's is high-quality light music and is superbly played here.
Gilad Karni's ardent interpretation of the Viola Concerto is especially welcome. A fine player and former Lionel Tertis Competition prize-winner, Karni audibly relishes the work's dark colours and rich writing. The Concerto had a difficult genesis (for Rózsa), taking four years to complete with several interruptions by film work which the composer later claimed ruined the flow. Yet the finished result does not betray this, its four movements holding together as if written in a single burst of inspiration.
Karni proves a fine advocate and the Budapest orchestra provide excellent support.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The Hungarian Serenade… is superbly played… Gilad Karni's ardent interpretation of the Viola Concerto is especially welcome. A fine player and former Lionel Tertis Competition prize-winner, Karni audibly relishes the work's dark colours and rich writing.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2009
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