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Corigliano: Violin Concerto 'The Red Violin'; Phantasmagoria

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 25, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

With this new recording, JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic continue their revelatory exploration of Corigliano's highly engaging and imaginative symphonic music. Phantasmagoria draws material from his immense opera The Ghosts of Versailles, with subliminal quotes from Mozart, Rossini and Wagner. Music from his third film score, The Red Violin, provided elements which Corigliano elaborates in the Violin Concerto, its opening Chaconne being described by the composer as 'a passionate romantic essay' which he has complemented with an effervescent Scherzo, an intensely emotional Andante and a racing, rollicking Finale.


"...This is the concert-concerto re-composition of the soundtrack Corigliano wrote for the rather wonderful movie of the same name. It follows the fate of a most singular violin and its owners over a period of several hundred years. Given the period of time represented it is only natural that Corigliano's music has a looking-backwards-over-time quality, a feeling of time lost (Proustian?) but regained in the telling of the story. This is modern music that is musically expressive first and modern only in its secondary sense.

The main, and most formidable movement of the work is in the form of a chaconne, a series of chords that center the music and provide a framework to the unforgettably evocative melodizing. It's all in the form of a bravura violin concerto that recapitulates the tradition from Mozart to Berg (in fact Berg's concerto has a certain resonance with Corigliano's) without sounding as if it were derived from any particular moment in that history. In short Corigliano's exceptional, naturally fecund compositional brilliance and his complete internalization of the grand tradition leads to music that transmits a great beauty, mystery and passion, complete within itself. There are references, but it is not assuredly a work of citations and footnotes. It is organic completeness. . . marvelous Corigliano music.

There is a new version just out with Michael Ludwig taking on the solo part and JoAnn Falletta conducting the Buffalo Philharmonic (Naxos 8.559671). It is hard to top the original version with Joshua Bell. But this version does quite well for itself. Ludwig gives a finely detailed rendering of the solo part without forgetting the romantic passion so much a part of the piece. Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic bring out the sensuous and mysterious sides of the work in fine fashion. The performance has its own coherence and validity. My take would be to get this version AND the one with Joshua Bell. If you are on a budget, this one at Naxos prices will serve you quite well.

It has as a nice bonus the Phantasmagoria Suite from Corigliano's quite successful opera "The Ghosts of Versailles." In essence this suite has a kind of fascinating pastiche quality, with quotations from classic opera, snatches of Rossini, Mozart and Wagner incorporated into a masterful orchestral tour de force that reflects the opera in a kind of instrumental microcosm. It is very enjoyable and very much an inimitable product of Corigliano's eloquent pen.

Corigliano's music impresses without the appearance of an intense striving for novelty. It appeals to those that may not like modern music, and too those that do. That's quite an achievement. This recording is a great place to experience his extraordinarily attractive music." -- Gapplegate Music Review: June 9, 2010 -

10/10 - It says something good about our contemporary musical life that major works such as these are available in multiple recordings. This is a wonderfully smart coupling: two major works both based on theatrical scores. Phantasmagoria comes from the opera The Ghosts of Versailles, while the "Red Violin" Concerto has its origins in the film of the same name. The concerto already has been recorded, splendidly, by Joshua Bell and Marin Alsop for Sony Classical, but its coupling, Corigliano's Violin Sonata, while apt for the composer's fans, isn't as much fun as this one. Corigliano is, first and foremost, a splendid writer for the orchestra.

Furthermore, Michael Ludwig's solo work certainly compares favorably to Bell's. He's completely at home in the work's atrocious technical demands, and in the whirlwind scherzo and the rustic finale he even brings an extra measure of pyrotechnical dazzle. JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo players also put on a virtuosic display, clearly relishing the many opportunities that Corigliano gives them to strut their stuff. Phantasmagoria truly is, well, phantasmagorical. The whole production is engineered with vivid but unobtrusive naturalness. A total winner. -- Classics Today, David Hurwitz, September 21, 2010

American composer John Corigliano pleases crowds with his accessible orchestral scores, but neo-Romantic is not quite the right word for him. Corigliano's music is historically oriented rather than nostalgic, and in his capacity to draw a variety of resonances from styles and motifs of the past he might almost be thought of as an American Dmitry Shostakovich. This release features two compositions drawn from dramatic presentations, and both of them, expertly adapted to a purely orchestral format, show every sign of becoming repertory standards. Both allow the members of a large orchestra to display their talents, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Michael Ludwig, quite nicely recorded in the orchestra's own Kleinhans Music Hall, step up to the occasion with technically spot-on yet sweeping performances under conductor JoAnn Falletta. Hear the banging effect executed by the violins in the fourth movement of the Violin Concerto "The Red Violin" (track 5), one of Corigliano's most-performed works in its various guises. The concerto is an expansion of the Chaconne for violin and orchestra, which in turn distilled elements from Corigliano's score for the film of the same name. The opening chaconne is polyphonic in the sense in which literary critics employ the word, with distinct narratives set in different historical eras (through which the violin itself travels in the film) occurring sequentially. Phantasmagoria is adapted from Corigliano's opera Ghosts of Versailles; it contains various musical quotations, and the orchestra sets the right dreamlike mood to bring out the effect of these. There are other choices for these contemporary American classics, but this is a good one, with the elusive quality of rediscovering the excitement of symphonic music that has endeared Corigliano to audiences in the U.S. and beyond. -- allmusic, James Manheim

Film scores do not on the whole make good concert pieces, even when music is the subject of the movie. I have heard this concerto played on record by Joshua Bell, Chloe Hanslip and I Musici of Montreal without being gripped. Michael Ludwig, though, brings something extra to this performance. For a start, there is nothing slushy or movie-sentimental about his playing, which is hot, sharp and close to the edge. These qualities drive the narrative in a way that lets you forget it was once yoked to a dumb story. The Buffalo Philharmonic play like major-leaguers and JoAnn Falletta keeps it tight. The filler is a suite from Corigiliano's Met opera, The Ghosts of Versailles. -- Dilettante - June 28, 2010

Naxos continues their fine series of Corigliano recordings with this entry featuring what is becoming one of the composer's more popularized works, the violin concerto "based" on The Red Violin. The Buffalo Philharmonic continues there impressive string of releases under music director JoAnn Falletta which included an earlier release of the composer's music. That Grammy-winning disc featured music derived from the composer's first film score, Altered States, and an odd setting of texts by Bob Dylan.

The first work on the disc is based on music from Corigliano's opera The Ghosts of Versailles. A version of what is now Phantasmagoria premiered as a work written for Yo-Yo Ma and performed by him with Emanuel Ax in its solo setting on a Sony release now a decade old. The Ondine label premiered this orchestral setting about five years ago and we have Naxos to thank for finding a way to bring this work to more people at their reduced price. The spectal quality of the earlier moments of this work feature clusters and sliding harmonics, reminiscent of Corigliano's Altered States score. It takes a few minutes for this suite to unfold before the varieties of musical quotations and borrowings begin to appear. The work has three main structural segments that move from ghostly atonal writing, to quotation music, to contemporary orchestral harmonic writing with a tendency toward more post-romantic qualities... The performance here is fascinatingly detailed with clearly-defined solo wind and brass lines in a drier acoustic. Falletta seems to let the music flow naturally lending it a freer quality that one tends to expect when a new piece has had some distance between the present and its first appearance. Ludwig gets tremendous background support and gives a fairly impassioned performance that features a bit more interpretive sliding to reach higher pitch values and which at times features attacks and articulation that are less intense then Bell's approach. Ludwig approaches this work as a solo concerto taking the thematic content within the context of the present work and allowing his interpretation to grow out the piece itself and not its precursors... Overall this is a perfect introduction to Corigliano's orchestral concert music. Falletta's shaping of orchestral textures and tempi allow her to show off the amazing musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic to be more than just another regional orchestra. Ludwig's performance is equally valid and seems to relax a bit more as the work progresses. It is the performance of a mature artist interested in performing this piece as a solo concert work on its own terms rather than simply mimicking the work's very first recording. The result is a valid interpretation that works its way through the tension between romantically-conceived themes and contemporary orchestral writing. It might even open the door for others to consider picking up the work as well. The problem with the piece is that one has to take the final three movements as the balance to an overlong opening one and this is easier to do when one feels the third movement as a long introduction to the work's gradually accelerating finale. Easily recommendable even to those who have grown accustomed to Bell's performance for precisely the alternate approach needed to keep this work from becoming a sterile recorded monument. -- Cinemusical -

Very soon after he was asked to provide the signature violin solos for François Girard's film The Red Violin in 1997 -- the story of the life of a violin over three centuries -- Corigliano incorporated the material into a Chaconne for violin and orchestra for Joshua Bell who had played the solos in the film. That however presented a programming predicament. Single movement works (the composer sites Ravel's Tzigane, Chausson's Poeme and the Beethoven Romances) hardly merit a soloist's guest appearance, but a complete concerto might. A further three movements completed the work over the next few years for its first performance by Joshua Bell in September 2003. The opening Chaconne grew into a formidable seventeen-minute movement to become the substantial first of four, powerful, haunting and romantic. There followed a brief fleeting Pianissimo Scherzo and a dark Andante, an intense recitative that opens out into a tender aria. The finale is full of vigour, punctuating a recall of the opening broad romanticism with aggressive percussive brilliance.

On this recording Michael Ludwig gives an impressive performance, supported by an incisive Buffolo Philharmonic, directed by JoAnn Falletta. Phantasmagoria is the Suite from Corigliano's opera The Ghosts of Versailles, a huge work first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991, and existing in reduced orchestra versions (one 1995 for the Hanover Staatsoper, another last year for the Met). The Suite compresses the action into twenty-two minutes, preserving the three levels: the ghosts of Beaumarchais and Marie Antoinette; the stage on which the dramas were realised; and the historical reality of the French Revolution. Quotations of Mozart, Rossini and others haunt the texture, from the eerie sounds with which it begins to the chaotic hilarity within. This is music that should not fail to entertain, and provide a challenge for those who enjoy finding quotes! -- Music & Vision, Patric Standford, August 6, 2010

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Composer: John Corigliano
  • Audio CD (May 25, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,139 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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This is a marvelous recording - especially the haunting "The Red Violin" - it doesn't matter if you have either of the Josh Bell's recordings Corigliano: Red Violin Concerto / Violin Sonata ~ Bell or The Red Violin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of this piece, you have to make room for Ludwig and Falletta and the remarkable Buffalo Symphony. This is one of the best values in the Naxos catalog of American music. (If you like "The Red Violin", try the Philip Glass Violin Concerto Glass: Violin concerto) Highly recommended!
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If you have heard the excellence of Ludwig's musical skills, you will find this concerto less than satisfying. It is, on the other hand, a well done rendition of the score to "The Red Violin". It you haven't seen the lush movie, "The Red Violin", do so soon!
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Corigliano: Violin Concerto 'The Red Violin'; Phantasmagoria
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