17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Britten's violin concerto is right up there with the two Shostakovich violin concerti, and perhaps even better than they. There are indeed traces of the early and more daring Shostakovich in this work, but it is Britten's original genius throughout. In fact the work's premiere in 1940 caught much of the music establishment by surprise, since it was not the kind of music one would expect to hear coming from a 25 year-old who had a reputation of composing relatively lightweight works.
Vengerov gives a riveting performance. The first movement is darkly haunting: harrowing might even be a better term. Vengerov sucks the marrow out of this work; he is relentless. At the same time, his compatriot Rostropovitch plays the paternal role and gives the orchestra gentle, masterful guidance. The work ends, and one wonders: was this Schnittke? No, for in fact the work was composed when Schnittke was still a young child. Yet even in 1939 Britten had tapped into that dark rhizome of raw nerves that was later to so marvelously spread itself throughout the chamber music of Schnittke.
Walton's concerto for viola, though of a distinctly different flavor, is nonetheless on a par with most or all of Walton's other orchestral works: sophisticated, highly polished, modern, offering both style and substance. The work is of course in a more serious vein than one might be accustomed to hearing in Walton. And although it does not approach the pinnacle of Britten's concerto, it stands on its own as a strong and evocative work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
If EMI weren't a British-owned label, I doubt that two dyed-in-the-vodka Russians would have taken up Britten and Walton. How fortunate for us that they did. The Britten Violin Concerto is an original, engrossing work. The opening movement is mysterious and haunting, one of the greatest things from this period in Britten's career. Even though a prodigy, he was still searching for his unique voice in 1938. Without being able to name the specific influences -- Britten himself speaks of his revelatory encounter with the Berg concerto -- one feels that Britten is weaving about until he hits on strikingly original moments, such as the shadowy, tango-like plucked passage in the first movement. Perhaps the Scherzo falls back too often on the generic modernist idiom typical of the era, a style more suited to Shostakovich or the bluff Walton than his younger contemporary.
Still, the score gets under your skin and deserves the visibility that a superstar like Vengerov brings. No doubt the soulful, elegiac finale appealed to his Russian sensibility -- it hews close to Shostakovich in mood and expresses the kind of anxious sorrow characteristic of the prewar period. Vengerov gives the concerto a searching performance on a large scale (larger than any rival I've heard), with sympathetic accompaniment from his musical godfather Rostropovich and wonderful sonics from EMI. You are reminded again and again that an artist with such gifts comes along once in a generation. Britten's adroitness is shown in the concerto's many changes of mood, and when Vengerov arrives at the most inspired passages, he makes them sound like music of genius.
The Walton Viola Concerto is musically a safer, less original work. It's played and recorded much moe often, because of the scarcity of viola concertos. Purists may dislike Vengerov's fairly slow, ruminative first movement, and compared to the breathtaking tone of his violin, this viola sounds less striking. Even so, he brings his talent to bear with flowing expression and commitment. I don't think one should listen to all 64 min. of this CD at one sitting--the idioms are too similar in their free-form shape and wandering harmonies. Also, neither work is immediately easy to absorb. Repeated listening makes all the difference.
In all, a triumph for Vengerov, if a somewhat low-key one. I won't return often to the Walton, but his Britten is indispensable--it redeems a neglected, near-great work.
P.S. -- In 2008 the English violinist Daniel Hope released an even better version of the Britten, one that feels more "inside" the music, and which risks making unlovely sounds, as Vengerov never does. Hope finds a gripping kind of urgency and despration in this work; therefore his account leaps ahead of the field, I think.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Maxim Vengerov's recording of Britten's Violin Concerto is one of the most amazing CDs I've come across in years. This is a haunting piece --- full of agitation and raw emotion, yet also lyrical and elegant in turn. Vengerov does full justice to the many hues of this work -- in particular, the lento e solenne at the end is heartbreakingly poignant and superbly played.
I must admit, when this is in the CD player, I often don't get past the Britten to hear the Walton Viola Concerto, but it also is beautifully played and a gorgeous work in itself.
This is one CD that's never far from the stereo in my home.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Unfortunately I purchased the CD for the recording of the Walton, looking forward to what an artist of Vengerov's calibre could do with the piece. Unfortunately what he managed to do was mangle it. The tempos are dreadfully (actually painfully) slow and he forces too much to get a large sound from the viola. Vengerov's foray into viola territory was a nice experiment, but not one that he should repeat. The Britten is up to his usual standards.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I would strongly recommend this CD. Not only Vengerov plays beautifully, but also the orchestra sounds extraordinarily in an, also, excellent recording. Britten and Walton, together, it's as well a great idea and the comparison makes the CD even more succesful. Do you a favour and enjoy it.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Britten's Violin Voncerto is spellbinding. Hypnotic. For one of the reviewers to call it "flawed" means he must go to Suffolk, sit on the shingle beach, listen to the seagulls on a grey cold day. This is one of Britten's most awe-inspiring works. The last pages would bring tears to your eyes. Walton, a 2nd rate wife-beater doesn't even bear comparison. One of, if not the greatest violin concertos of the 20th Century. Vengerov is superb in his reading, and only challenged by Nadia Grumlikova, a recording to die for. Avoid Ida Haendel's ghastly scraping like the plague. But don't die without listening to this stupendous concerto.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2014
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
02-20-2014 This EMI recording of the Benjamin Britten Violin Concerto has been well recieved but I actually gought it for the Walton Viola Concert of 19961, which I'll also review. The concerto is in three movements and runs for ---------. Maxim vengerov is accompanies by the London Symphony Orchestra under Mistislav Rostropovich. The work opens with a Moderato con moto, rather a standard beginningand then a vivace and finally a Passagaglis, Andante, and ending in Largamente, then Lento.
After a short quiet introduction, the soloist launches into a beautiful moderato with a high pitched melody soaring above the muted orchestral texture. At vaRIOUS POINTSA ALONG THE WAY THE VIOLIN DANCES AND SKIPS THROUGH THE MELODIES WITH the vigor and virtuosity that Maxim Vengerov is famous for. I couldn't detect much faMILIAR style here, as I kept waiting for some Peter Grimes ideas to emerge, still it alternates from capricious to legato somewhat. The 2nd movement Vivace--with a cadenza tacked on at the end, skips around between soloist and groups of the orchestra, in a peppy fashion. In the 5-6 minurte range the orchestra roars out a huge dramatic statement, rich in percussion and bold in mannerisms. This leads us into the cadenza, starting at near the ------mark as the solist takes center stage. The cadenza begins at about the 6 minute point with the soloist playing at first with volume and then tapering down to a lyrical tone, with a generous sweetness I enjoyed. The cadenza will stretch to the movement's 08:25 conclusion, before the finale comes forward.
The FIANALE STARTS OFF WITH THE VIOLINIST STEADILY ENDING THE SOLOS WORK, AS THE ORCHESTRA SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY USHERS IN THE THE ANDANTE LENTO SECTION. Much od this music, in the whole work, that is, is mildly dissonant but not too obtrusive as to give pause for lack of comprehention. It is a rahter troubled piece, dark and moody in nature but never wallowing in the depths. This final movement, then , is cut up into four sections:1)Passacaglia, 2) Andante lento, 3) Largamente, and finally Lento e solonne, and runs a total of 15:10. Just where the breaks are, is anyone's guess, b ut, perhsaps after repeated listeningfs, I'll figure it out for myself. In the meantime, the music is touching and a b it moving, in it's utterances.One thing I do KNOW is that Vengerov'splaying is quite virtuosic in temperament and execusion, and he can and does play with much flare and skill. I was impressed, and I began to wonder why I see so little from him is the recordings of conerti. I hope he steps up the pace and gives us what I believe he is capable of, simple more terrific material, modern or otherwise. This EMI recording is the ONLY one of Maxim that I own and I would love to add more to my library. As we approach the 10 minute range, another big orchestral moment is presented with as much impact as the one in the 2nd movement. I now believe we are in the ending Lento e solonne's region, with the tone of both soloist and conductor heading for the conclusion at 15:10. With very subdued accompanyment, both artists offer us what seems as though it will be a "soft landing", which seems to me to make all the sense in the world. Vengerov's carressing tone is gentle, poignant and immensely lyrical as the concerto ends with a perfect fade to a hush. Very beautiful work indeed, and a high recommendation fvrom myself for this unfamiliar work. I WOULD ADD THAT LOTS OFD THIS MUSIC HAS A DORT OF DREAMY AND MAJICAL FLAVOR TYTO IT, AND THAT MAKES IT ALL THE MORE INTERESTING. THELMA AND I PLAN TO HEAR THIS DONE IN CHICAGO THIS JUNE WITH SOLOIST _______________- AND JAAP VAN SVEDEN LEADING THE CSO, PLUS, THE SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH SYMPHONY, A REAL BLOCKBUSTER. I CAN'T WAIT.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2003
Format: Audio CD
The Walton is a VIOLA Concerto NOT a Violin Concedrto
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Without a shadow of a doubt I believe Vengerov's playing of the Britten Violin concerto and Walton's Viola concerto is unsurpassed and comes from Heaven. Vengerov in my opinion is the greatest violinist of out times and I always eagerly await his CD's. WOW !! were my first words when I listened to this CD and it's hardly been out of my CD player since.
This album will touch your soul it is SO beautiful. It moves me to tears, thrills me and takes my breath away. Vengerov has so much emotion and intensity in his playing, couple that with his
technical brilliance and the conducting of the LSO by Rostropovich, it's a recording you must have.
Maxim Vengerov is a amazing, buy the CD you'll love it.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This CD has been hyped to the gills by the Classical Music press, and for a change the hype is absolutely merited. Vengerov's touch is absolutely perfect, bringing every subtlety of tone from his instruments. The Britten is ravishing, especially the finale, but the Walton is what really makes this recording stand out. It's difficult to believe Vengerov only learned to play the viola for this piece. His tone is by turns heart-meltingly warm and heart-breakingly mournful, and I can only hope it helps give this Viola Concerto more recognition for the masterpiece it is.
Rostropovich's conducting is also masterful.