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Bartok: Violin Concertos, Nos. 1 and 2; Viola Concerto

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Bartok: Violin Concertos, Nos. 1 and 2; Viola Concerto
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  • Bartok: Chamber Works for Violin, Vol. 3
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  • Bartók: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, Rhapsodies Nos. 1 and 2
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Editorial Reviews

Hailed as 'the Jascha Heifetz of our day' (The Globe and Mail, Canada), the violinist James Ehnes is widely considered one of the most dynamic and exciting performers in classical music, appearing regularly with the world's finest orchestras and conductors. Accompanied here by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda, Ehnes is the soloist in Bartok's two violin concertos in which he plays the 'Marsick' Stradivarius of 1715, as well as in the viola concerto, performing on the 'Rolla' Giuseppe Guadagnini viola of 1793, on loan from the Fulton Collection.

James Ehnes said of this disc: 'These three concertos are among the most striking examples of Bartok's early, middle, and late periods, each showing a very different side of one of the great musical voices of all time; they are among my very favourite pieces to perform'.
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic
  • Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
  • Composer: Bartok
  • Audio CD (September 27, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B005EMNLLE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,422 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

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James Ehnes' performance of the first movement (Andante Sostenuto) of Bartok's 1st Violin Concerto is one of the most magnificently beautiful things I've ever heard. It's right up there with Karajan's Vienna account of the Adagio from Bruckner's 8th Symphony in it's emotional wallop.
Ehnes and Gianandrea Noseda present this opening movement of this 3 concerto cd as one long serene and profound meditation on Love and Joy. It is a miracle of evocation seeing as Love and Joy are so fleeting if they ever appear at all. To capture the spirit of these two high human aspirations is astonishing enough, but the musical expression of all the participants is beyond imagination. The BBC Philharmonic plays this movement as if in an underwater trance of beauty and bliss. The woodwind tone colors are muted and melancholy but shot-through with a poignant happiness. Words escape me now.

The rest of this cd of Bartok's two Violin Concerti and the posthumous Viola Concerto is on an very high level of execution and recording.
The engineering is splendidly clear yet soft-edged and intimate. There is no want of spikiness where it is called for, and it often is in Bartok, and the technical challenges of the solo and orchestral parts are met with seeming effortlessness.

I can't recommend this set highly enough, even for those who have never warmed to Bartok's music. It is worth the price of purchase simply to have the first track of the Andante Sostenuto. It is life enhancing and that is not something that can be said very often.
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This disc, recorded between 2009-11, has a program content that will answer many collectors' dreams as it so usefully includes the viola concerto completed posthumously but still a fine work. The usual collecting problem is finding a good viola concerto that avoids problems of coupling.

The performing style of Ehnes is generally more lyrical and less bitingly Hungarian gypsy style than is often presented. In this way the concerto becomes more central European and 'civilised' and there will be those that feel the music has been robbed of its essential folk-based earthiness. I feel that this is a valid comment. However, just as it is possible to obtain considerable pleasure of Russian music, such as that by Rachmaninov for example, by other nationalities other than the Russians even without that special Russian emotional rawness, I think that it is also possible to enjoy this disc in the same sort of way. Ehnes certainly delivers immaculate technical mastery and also provides a satisfying 'musical' performance within the limitations as described above.

What you will not get is the sort of Hungarian drive and identification that is immediately apparent in performances by Zehetmair and the Budapest orchestra conducted by Fischer for example. You will also get another example of fine Chandos engineering which aids following and unravelling the Bartok textures as they are so clearly recorded and laid out before our ears.

This then is a very satisfying disc of Hungarian origin but presented more as central violin concerto repertory. There is a place for such a disc and performance and as such I have enjoyed it - but, and it is a but, I do have the other more earthy approaches in my collection and I enjoy Ehnes mostly as an extra to the real thing! However, for those for whom this program and type of approach might make it easier to tackle one of the 20th century's great violin concertos (number 2) this may well be a perfect purchase.
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There’s a touch of the gypsy in Bartok’s stringed concertos. Bartok’s instrument was the piano, but as a Hungarian—and especially as an exponent of Hungarian folk music—he felt a special kinship with the violin and viola, particularly evident in his second violin concerto. As far as the composer was concerned, this was his only violin concerto. What we now refer to as no. 1 is an early, two-movement work not published until after his death. It’s an ethereal work and utterly charming, but it’s not typical of Bartok’s more famous compositions. Violin Concerto no. 2 is typical and now lays claim to parity with Beethoven and Brahms. Written to a commission from the Hungarian virtuoso, Zoltan Szekely, Bartok managed to give his friend ample opportunity to display his considerable gifts, while not losing sight of the musical structure. The Viola Concerto was written late in Bartok’s life, while he made his new home in America, and remained unfinished at his death. It was completed by his student, Tibor Serly. There is a more recent version, a slightly revised and edited account by Bartok’s son Peter, and Paul Neubauer, which is the version performed here. The Viola Concerto shares many features with its companion piece, Piano Concerto no. 3. Both were composed around the same time. The slow movement of each—marked “Adagio religious” in both cases—share a mood of serenity. The harmonic style of both is more consonant than Bartok’s earlier works. You might say they reflect more of Bartok’s time in New York than of his native Hungary. Having said that, we still hear in the third movement of the Viola Concerto the Hungarian dance rhythms that are the hallmark of his style.Read more ›
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