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Barber, Korngold, Walton: Violin Concertos

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

2008 GRAMMY Award Winner - Soloist with Orchestra



Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. I. Moderato Nobile
  2. II. Romance: Andante
  3. III. Finale: Allegro Assai Vivace
  4. I. Allegro
  5. II. Andante
  6. III. Presto In Moto Perpetuo
  7. I. Andante Tranquillo
  8. II. Presto Capriccioso Alla Napolitana
  9. III. Vivace

Product Details

  • Performer: James Ehnes
  • Orchestra: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Bramwell Tovey
  • Composer: Samuel Barber, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, William Walton
  • Audio CD (October 31, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: CBC Records
  • ASIN: B000I6AITO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,647 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This disc featuring Manitoba-born violinist James Ehnes (pronounced 'Ennis') confirms for me my suspicion that he is one of the best of the younger generation of violin soloists on the concert circuit. I had heard and greatly admired his earlier recordings of Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Partitas and of Mozart's five Violin Concerti, but this is the first I've heard him play anything from the Romantic violin concerto literature. And although these three concertos -- those by Korngold, Barber, and Walton -- are from the twentieth century they are quintessentially Romantic in thrust.

Korngold's luscious concerto, written in a style I've always thought of as '1940s Hollywood chromatic' (think of Raksin's 'Laura' or Korngold's own film scores) was premiered by Heifetz in 1947 (recorded by him in a best-selling recording of the period) and incorporates themes from several of Korngold's film scores (e.g., Another Dawn, Juarez, Anthony Adverse and The Prince and the Pauper). Ehnes's tone is perhaps less cholesterol-rich than some but he plays this crowd-pleasing work with conviction and brilliance, using robust or delicate tone where called for. He is particularly effective in the songful middle movement and in the set of variations that make up the finale.

The story is well known of how Barber was commissioned to write his violin concerto for the protégé of a rich industrialist only to have the young violinist refuse to play it because the finale was technically too difficult. The first two movements brim with ultra-lyrical themes that are underscored by plush orchestral accompaniment that place the soloist directly in the spotlight. The finale -- presto in moto perpetuo -- is a knuckle-busting showpiece.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have this on order as of today, but since there are no reviews, I thought I'd report my thoughts on James Ehnes's playing of the Korngold at the November 26, 2006, Houston Symphony concert -- it was absolutely fantastic!

Hilary Hahn was originally scheduled to play, but could not due to an illness. Ehnes was asked to fill in on Monday. While I'm a fan of Ms. Hahn, I think she would be hard pressed to play the Korngold any better than James Ehnes. How can you surpass perfection? -smile-

As for the Korngold, I had not heard it in thirty years. In hindsight, I greatly regret this. It is a magnificent work. At the end of the first movement, the word "WOW" kept going through my head. I found the second movement so emotionally moving, I had to bite my lip to keep from falling apart and disturbing the audience. A plus was the sound of James Ehnes's Stradivarius (on loan), which was so beautiful, especially in the upper ranges of the instrument.

This was a truly remarkable performance, by a truly remarkable talent. I think we will be seeing much more from this relatively young Canadian violinist in the future. I heard Perlman, Zukermann, and Yo-Yo Ma early in their careers. It would not surprise me in the least if Ehnes eventually reaches their ranks in terms of popularity. His playing very well may already be there. We will see.

After I receive the CD and have listened to it, I will edit this review. I have also ordered Shaham to compare.

As an aside, I remain delighted by the exceptionally high, world class level of playing by Houston Symphony. At this time, I can't think of a single orchestra that I would prefer to hear over this one. Eschenbach mined the diamonds, and Graf has cut and polished them to perfection.
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This CD is one of my favorites. I especially like the Korngold concerto. The soaring melodies and bravura passages move the listener beyond mere competent music making. We actually experience the flow, scope, and otherworldly vision of Korngold's music. Despite modern tastes, music should occasionally move the soul as well as the intellect. Contemporary music all too frequently avoids any kinship with Romanticism. Korngold, however, is no stranger to expressing our emotions freely and deeply, as we have witnessed so often in his powerful film scores. It comes as no surprise, then, that we hear strains from his film melodies in this concerto. Korngold wrote for the heart as well as for the intellect. For those who, like me, enjoy the gift of a beautiful melody, rarely heard these days, you will want to own this CD. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a powerful work and demanding. The Samuel Barber concerto is also powerful and melodious and deserves our attention. I recommend this CD to anyone who loves violin music that will move your emotions and satisfy your respect for virtuoso mastery of the instrument.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc from 2006, considered to be well recorded by most but not all listeners, has created a unique and rewarding coupling by bringing together these three particular concertos. The three works were written on very similar dates, the Walton between 1938-9 than revised in 1943, the Barber being from 1939-40 and the Korngold in 1945.

The Korngold concerto is unusual insofar as the composer made extensive use of his previous successful film scores for thematic material. The Barber concerto is unusual insofar as the initial two movements are sufficiently focussed upon lyrical writing that the intended recipient complained that they did not contain sufficient display material but when faced with the contrasting fireworks of the final movement the same recipient complained of the movements extreme difficulty. The Walton concerto on the other hand, suffered from no such problems other than typical slowness in composition and then some revision.

All three works share an intense lyricism which has served both the Barber and Walton concertos well but the cinematic links to the Korngold concerto have been damaging and it has been difficult for it to get established upon the international concert circuit so far. This disc should help in that regard as Ehnes produces what seems to be a masterly performance of the Korngold playing it for its full romantic value and with complete technical assurance. Technical assurance is also vividly apparent in his delivery of the demanding final movement of the Barber concerto and of the challenging second movement of the Walton concerto while the strong lyrical requirements of all three concertos are equally well met.
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