Jenny Hanniver | Philadelphia, PA, United States | 07/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the twentieth century's finest violin concertos is out in an economical Naxos edition conducted by Marin Alsop. Ms. Alsop is one of Naxos' leading conductors. Her management of the orchestra is sensitive, and Boswell's violin playing is superb. The latest BBC MUSIC (one of my favorite magazines) has a featured article on the Barber Violin Concerto, well worth reading, and praises the Naxos recording. Naxos just gets better and better! Highly recommended."
Barber Violin Concerto; Buswell
John Peters | UK | 11/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"James Buswell's playing is wonderful; the tone is neither too syrupy nor harsh, and his playing is clean. The orchestral strings are a little strained, but the balance is great, with the violin sound weaving in and out of the upper sections perfectly. At all times the romantisism is kept at bay by unfussed playing. For an inexpensive recording, this version of the Barber is a treat. Very highly recomended as an introduction to Barber. If it is a 'definitive' version of the concerto you are looking for, then a more widely known interpretation might be a better bet (ie. Stern). Otherwise, buy it!"
Pleasant readings of lovely, lyrical works
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 06/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It must be great to go thorugh life with the aristocratic moniker of James Oliver Buswell IV. As a violinist, Buswell is more a man of the people than an aristocrat: he gives a modest, sweet-toned reading of the Barber Violin Concerto that doesn't show off its virtuosic technique. Marin Alsop forgoes rhythmic strength in favor of free-form songfulness, and the music can take it. The perpetual motion finale is excitingly fast, and Naxos provides exceptionally clear, natural sonics, among the best I've heard in this work.
The other works will be new even to listeners who follow Barber fairly closely. Souvenirs is a ripely nostalgic ballet suite set in a grand hotel--it also exists in a two-paino version, I think--with breezy dances from the turn of the century, such as a waltz, schottische, and two-step. Barber's melodies aren't first-rate, but this is gentle, easy listening.
The Serenade for Strings echos its famous predecessors by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. Compared to them, this wispy, light-footed movement feels like tea-party music. But it's Barber's Op. 1 and is here basically to fill out our knowledge of his beginnings. His more impressive Op. 7, Music for a Scene from Shelley, is begins as gentle, moody shimmers but builds to a surprisingly strong climax that evokes mystery and perhaps tragic loss.
In all, these fillers pretty much amount to pstel water-color sketches. The Violin Concerto is the main attraction, and it's nicely done at bargain price."
A thoroughly convincing version of the violin concerto with
G.D. | Norway | 05/25/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Barber's violin concerto is hardly lacking in good performances on disc, but the Buswell-Alsop partnership turns in a serious contender here. To be honest, I find it a little hard to pinpoint exactly what I found so attractive about this performance - I have heard warmer and richer violin playing in the work, and Buswell doesn't (and doesn't attempt to) challenge Hilary Hahn for bravura and brilliant virtuosity (especially in the finale). Yet there is something that strikes me as thoroughly unforced and compelling about this performance - the phrasing is effortless, the melodic lines singing (especially in the first movement) with a wistfully autumnal quality to it. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra offers an excellent partnership under Marin Alsop - spirited, rhythmically sharp and incisive and thoroughly alive. So even though the performance might not displace the classics, it is worthy of comparison and might, perhaps, even be a first choice for newcomers to this adorable work.
This release is not the least valuable for the couplings. Souvenirs receive a brisk, fabulously played performance and the Music for a Scene from Shelley is more detailed and restrained than competing performances - I am not in the end completely convinced by Alsop's approach here, but then I have never been completely convinced that this is a work worth salvaging anyway. The disc is, however, made even more noteworthy for the inclusion of the early and little-performed Serenade for Strings (Barber's op.1). It might not be a masterpiece in any respect, but comes across as irrestistibly charming in Alsop's warm and considerate approach (and the beautifully lush tone of the Scottish strings). The sound is clear, finely balanced and with a good perspective. In sum, this is a strongly recommended disc and another important installment in Naxos's Barber series."