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Barber: Violin Concerto / Cello Concerto / Capricorn Concerto

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 27, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

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Barber's Cello Concerto is one of the several great modern works for cello and orchestra. It's not as well known as it ought to be, and the reason is simple: it's appallingly difficult to play. The Violin Concerto, on the other hand, has always been a popular favorite. The first two movements are so lusciously beautiful feel you ought to pinch yourself after hearing them just to prove that they were real. The Capricorn Concerto is an acerbic, neo- Baroque pastiche very similar to Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks and Martinu's Concerto Grosso. All three works are performed and recorded with total commitment and genuine Romantic flair. A great Barber record. -- David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 27, 1996)
  • Original Release Date: February 27, 1996
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA Victor
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • ASIN: B000003FYD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,138 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
The Barber violin concerto has long been a pinnacle of the repertoire, and this is perhaps the finest modern recording of this glorious work. Takezawa's tone is voluptious, her intonation flawless, her tonal shading exquisite. The violin playing is more ravishing than Kremer's or Hahn's accounts, which are both lauded modern versions. Only Stern's pioneering account can match this recording however for inspitation.

The other performances on the disc are another matter. Barber's Cello concerto is one of the finest written for the instrument and certainly worthy of its place alongside the Shostakovich concerti and Dvorak's in the canon of 'great' cello music. Unfortuntaley it is also horrendously difficult for the soloist which perhaps accounts for its comparative neglect. Isserlis can play the piece, but this is a small scale reading, not taking into account the romantic sweep and soaring melodies of this more veiled concerto. Ultimately his account is unengaging and cannot sustain interest. Of the 10 versions I have heard, Wendy Warner's performance on Naxos is by far the finest account, being both bold and beautifully sensitive, passionate and virtuosic. Yo-Yo Ma is also OK, but cannot match the sher passion and drama of Warner. Nelsova is worth mentioning as it was conducted by Barber himself, but her technique occasionally lets her down because of Barber's high speeds (and the ensemble is not always quite together).

The Capricorn concerto is quite nicely recorded here, but also ultimately fails to convince. Again it is left to Naxos for the best recording of this unjustly neglected and uniquely beautiful work that is unlike anything else in Barber.

The CD is easily worth the price just for Takezawa's account of the violin concerto, but for the other pieces look to Naxos.
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Format: Audio CD
While the Barber Violin Concerto is here excellent, I would argue that Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony's foray on EMI with Olivera is even better, with delicious sound to match, and maybe just a little more attention to orchestral detail.
However, this disc is worth the price for the cello concerto. I have Ma and Isserlis, and here, Isserlis takes the prize by far. He is "into" the music, such that it sounds not only familiar, bet well-loved by him. He presents the work with flair and sensitivity, and Slatkin offers outstanding support. The other work, the Capricorn Concerto is a fun romp, if not as immediately accessible as the Violin Concerto. But the superb soloists, especially Susan Slaughter, bring it to life.
Barber and Slatkin are a great match!
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Like a lot of others, I was familiar with the famous adagio for strings,and a few other Barber pieces...but I had no ideal how beautiful the violin concerto was. It's a shame to realize how Barber and other "Tonal" composers were looked down on in their own time...perhaps we're far enough removed to begin to appreciate Barber and other composers similar to him. The performances are all outstanding...Isserlis, and Takezawa give
definitive takes on this music...Slatkin makes a great partner: 5 stars
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