Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bela Bartok, Sakari Oramo, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra|
Bartók: Works for Violin
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Bartok Ravishingly Performed
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On this mid-price double CD album are collected most of the important violin works by Bela Bartok. The only major things missing are the early first violin concerto and the second violin/piano sonata. But included are the Second Violin Concerto, 'Contrasts' for violin, clarinet and piano, the magnificent Sonata for Solo Violin, and the First Sonata for Violin and Piano. The violinist featured is Laurent Korcia, a fortyish violinist who is wildly popular in his native France but not widely known elsewhere. His playing has been heralded outside France but some reason he hasn't had a great deal of exposure. He was featured playing one of the Ysaye solo sonatas in Bruno Monsaingeon's excellent documentary (available on DVD), 'The Art of Violin.'
For me the high points of the set are the Solo Sonata, played with incisive and yet suave manner, and the Second Violin Concerto, with its sometimes velvety, sometimes tart flavor. In the latter he is accompanied marvelously by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Simon Rattle's successor as its music director, the Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo. The solo sonata is one of the masterpieces of modern solo violin writing and a real bear to perform. Korcia manages it marvelously and although he has technique to burn he makes it clear that this is a knotty work to perform and get across; I have to believe that is what Bart?k intended. I have known and loved the sonata for years, ever since I heard Ivry Gitlis play and then make a classic recording of it. I have not heard Menuhin's recording but am told that it is a benchmark. Bartok wrote the sonata for him, so I can imagine it is excellent. That is as may be, but I was more than satisfied and often electrified (as in the fugal second movement) by Korcia's playing.
'Contrasts' was originally written for Benny Goodman and Josef Szigeti who premiered it with the composer at the piano. This performance with clarinetist Michel Portal and pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, along with Korcia, doesn't quite have the bounce in the first movement (Verbunkos) that I recall others having, but it is suave in the extreme and quite enjoyable. The atmospheric second movement, Piheno (Relaxation), is played with grace and intense concentration; one feature is that the clarinet plays in its spooky chalumeau register much of the time. The finale, Sebes (Fast Dance), is characterized by endless chains of sixteenths and a chugging peasant rhythm, very exciting and just a little down-and-dirty. Excellent!
I was not at all familiar with the First Sonata for Violin and Piano (Korcia/Bavouzet) and haven't quite digested it yet. It sounds fine, but I have nothing to compare it with. It is early (1921) and sounds harder-edged than the later works; this was the period of 'The Miraculous Mandarin', after all.
The Solo Sonata and the Violin/Piano Sonata were recorded in Marseille in 1997. The Second Concerto was recorded live in concert in Birmingham in 2004. 'Contrasts' was recorded in Brussels in 2005. All are in fine sound. There are no audience sounds in the live recording.
Strong recommendations all around.
An ample Bartok collection in unsatisfactory sound quality
Christopher Culver | 02/20/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For some years the Naive label pitched the violinist Laurent Korcia as one of its major talents. On this two-disc set, Korcia performs four pieces by Bela Bartok featuring the violin.
The Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1921) is what I would still consider early Bartok, before his modernist apogee. It's harmonies show much French influence. Nonetheless, Bartok's unique stylings make an appearance here in the quasi-"night music" feel of parts and the folk inflections. The first two movements tend to drag, but the overtly virtuosic third movement leaves one with pleasant memories.
I really started enjoying this disc with "Contrasts" for clarinet, violin and piano (1938). I like this work a lot because it captures everything Bartok was on about in a fairly short, three-movement trio. The outer two movements are dances, the first at a moderate pace and the second fast, showcasing Bartok's interest in folk music. The middle movement is an example of his eerie "night music" and is made up of a succession of symmetrical melodies. It's a great piece and the performance here is decent enough.
The Violin Concerto No. 2 (1937-38) has always seemed a problematic work to me. It goes on far too long and gets a little too Late Romantic for me, not a bad thing from other composers, but it does quiet Bartok's unique gifts. Nonetheless, there are plenty of moments to enjoy in it, and it does stand as one of Bartok's major responses to 12-tone serialism. However, instead of the performance here featuring Korcia and Birmingham cond. Oramo, I'd recommend that by Mullova and the L.A. Philharmonic cond. Salonen on a Philips disc.
The Sonata for Solo Violin (1944) is in four movements, with the first, marked "Tempo di ciaccona", in the spirit of Bach. The following movement is a four-part fugue, but now we move away from Bach through a lively use of pizzicato. The third movement, "Melodia", is indeed melodic, but in an eerie fashion that shows Bartok making no compromises to popular expectations. The final "Presto" seems a bit extraneous, not an organic way of bringing the Sonata to a close.
My big complaint about this disc is the sound quality. It's as flat as a passed-around radio recording here, with the mike placement around the piano in "Contrasts" especially incompetent. I often think that all the pieces here are lesser Bartok, but I don't know whether to blame the music itself or the audio quality. To alter a quip by Schoenberg, it may be that Bartok's music here isn't bad, just badly recorded."