Stravinsky, Bartók & Martinů: Violin Works (BIS)
Stravinsky is off-menu these days. Apart from the ballet music, the composer once regarded as the greatest of his century has been discarded by orchestras, who no longer consider him a box office draw. The validity of that judgment might be contested but not the evidence: when did you last hear a Symphony in C?
The violin concerto in D of 1931, commissioned by the US virtuoso Samuel Dushkin, is among the more inventive scores of Stravinsky’s neoclassical period, revealing a good deal of input by Dushkin. The German violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman, partnered by the Bamberg Symphony and Jakub Hrusa, realigns it wistfully as a late-romantic work, full of yearning for lost youth, homeland and confidence. The second aria, played softly, has an aching quality all its own. This is by some margin the most thoughtful interpretation I have heard in years, also the most likeable.
Bartok’s two violin rhapsodies, dated 1928, are frisky, folksy dances for Balkan feet: what’s not to like? Bohuslav Martinu’s Suite concertante of 1944 is one of his least-played works and I am thrilled to make its acquaintance. Hrusa brings out Bamberg’s Bohemian DNA — the orchestra was founded by post-War Czech refugees — and Zimmerman gives it full virtuoso sales technique. Martinu dances like the devil himself and dreams like Joseph in Egypt.
How do such masterpieces fall by the wayside? Why won’t orchestras look beyond the end of a librarian’s nose? Uncommonly these days, the BIS booklet notes (by Rebecca Schmid) are informative and a pleasure to read.
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