DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 01/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a lecture that he gave in 1964 Britten said that he did not compose for posterity, and that in any case the outlook for that was doubtful. Well, here we still are 40 years on, so perhaps without tempting fate one may dare bring an outstanding record of his music to a few people's notice in the hope that they will be around to enjoy it for a while. These two concertos were written in the 1930's within a short space of each other, the piano concerto being the earlier. Britten himself was soloist in the piano concerto's first performance, but the work lapsed into comparative oblivion before it was rescued several decades later by no less than Sviatoslav Richter. This is really the Richter of the familiar rave-notices this time. He seems to me to have had several quite distinct personalities as an interpreter and even indeed purely as a player, and this performance displays some of the sides of him that I personally like best. The virtuosity is cool and effortless (it is a particularly awkward solo part) with some wonderful shades of silver in his tone. Britten himself is in charge of the ECO who are on excellent form, and his highly individual orchestral sound is caught with striking vividness and effectiveness -hardly a matter of any surprise of course. The work itself appeals to me enormously, Britten being a composer I particularly like. This performance is going to be a hard act to follow, but I hope it arouses interest in a comparatively neglected work rather than frightening `competitors' off. If you like Britten in general, I would say you are going to enjoy this. If you do not respond to this performance, I guess the work is not for you.I happen to have another performance of the violin concerto with Rodney Friend as soloist and the LPO under Pritchard. It does not seem to be in the current catalogues, but at least it gave me a point of comparison for Lubotsky's version, which I have no hesitation in describing as distinctly the better of the two. The difference for me is a matter of sheer `quality' - quality of tone, quality of rhythm, quality of intonation. There is a more `intense' feel to this work, particularly in the last movement, another of Britten's much-loved passacaglias (the Impromptu movement from the piano concerto being yet another). Britten is in charge of the ECO again, with predictably excellent results.The recorded quality may or may not be to your liking. It is very much to mine. The volume level is on the low side, but that is easily remedied by turning up the control. It is extremely clear, though some may find it lacking in warmth. Horses for courses, I say. This is Britten not Brahms, and I like even the violin concerto recorded this way, and the piano concerto even more so. This is a disc I would describe as really outstanding, and now that we have turned over a new year I should like to commend it to a long posterity."
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 08/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Is there a more boisterous beginning to a concerto than the first bars of the Britten? The concerto sets a youthful mood from the start and never fails to be a refreshing piece of music. The concerto is cast in four movements beginning with a Toccata, followed by a Waltz, an Impromptu and finally a March. The arrangement is more like a suite than a concerto. The Impromptu is a passacaglia with a languorous Spanish-like melody, announced early in the movement. The soloist has a demanding job with the percussive effects in the March and the long cadenza-like passage of the Toccata. The concerto is magnificently played by Svastoslav Richter and the playing by the English Chamber Orchestra could not be more passionate.
The Violin Concerto similarly displays a mastery of the instrument and orchestra. The concerto begins with a brief orchestral introduction, with a drum motto, and the soloist enters with a beautiful, wistful melody that quickly becomes more assertive. The middle movement is a lively scherzo and leads directly into the passacaglia finale linked by a cadenza. The finale is bleak in tone but the tempi picks up until the music is triumphant and ends quietly with the same wistful atmosphere that the music began. Mark Lubotsky is marvelous in the concerto. His tone is absolutely soaring and he meets the technical demands of the work beautifully.
Even though Benjamin Britten was only in his mid-twenties, these concertos bear a maturity and sureness that were beyond his years. His recording of them is superb and belongs in the collection of anyone who loves instrumental concertos. "
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 05/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Usually I'm put off by early works of most composers--Paul Hindemith's or Copland's for example. Not typical, stylistically vague, awkwardly trendy, sometimes downright incompetent. Makes ya worry a bit.
Britten got off to an amazing start (sort of) with his Frank Bridge Variations--one of those rare early works by a composer that's now a standard rep piece. If you haven't heard it do so--it's magical. Weirdly, it's more "Britten" than these two slightly later concertos. Still these are strong and enjoyable works, stronger and more enjoyable than many by much more mature composers of his time. The Britten (what is it?) melancholy, creepiness, I'm never sure how to define it and it's so uniquely his, is there and what it does, curiously, is give a tinge of acceptable irony to the parts of these pieces that seem mildly derivative. It seems like everyone back then couldn't avoid Prokofiev when writing for piano. That these have been on the back burner for a while is more an indication of the serious under-appreciation we currently have of Britten as a composer. Shostakovich admired him deeply and that should tell us something right away. It's a little known fact but Dmitri was possibly the greatest judge of compositional talent that ever breathed.
I love the recording quality on these and the soloists are untouchable, especially Richter on the piano concerto."
Excellent concerti so rarely played in concert...
villegem | canada | 03/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just listened to the LP of these performances. I just want to add that this is one of the best recorded Decca and it should have warranted a release in hybrid sacd to recapture that sound. Decca, please release SACDs or LPs!"