Shchedrin: Concerto Cantabile / Stravinsky: Violin Concerto in D / Tchaikovsky: Serenade melancholique,Op.26 ~ Vengerov
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Back in 1994, Teldec struck gold when it teamed the very young Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov with conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and the London Symphony in a recording of Prokofiev's and Shostakovich's first violin concertos. The label followed that a couple of years later with the same performers doing the same composers' second violin concertos. Then, for some reason, Teldec seems to have walked away from its claim on their remarkable collaboration. With this release, EMI has come up with--what else?--more gold.
It's particularly exciting because the Shchedrin is a new and very good work, composed expressly for Vengerov and premiered by him in 1998. Written for solo violin and a full, symphony orchestra-sized string section, and called Concerto Cantabile, it is a work of haunting beauty that sustains a listener's interest over its 28 minutes with a combination of fascinating melodic and textural development, atmospheric effect, engaging emotion, and bold virtuosity--all the things a good concerto should have, made all the more compelling by the austerity the composer has forced on himself. Yet, as we should expect from Shchedrin, this is a colorful and highly expressive austerity, and its achievement is a compositional tour de force. Rostropovich conducts with keen insight into the composer's expressive aims, into the light and the dark of this work's Russian soul, and, not least, into what strings can do. The result is compelling. Stravinsky's acerbically jaunty concerto is an interesting coupling: Vengerov and Rostropovich convey its circus atmosphere, biting sense of fun, and the faux emotion of its two middle movements with evident delight. In the Tchaikovsky, they shift gears once again, making this gentle lament into a truly big piece. Throughout, Vengerov's heroically large, burnished tone is a thing of beauty, just as the exuberant virtuosity he brings to the Stravinsky and Shchedrin works still (though we've come to expect it) leaves us with our mouths hanging open. --Ted Libbey
Top customer reviews
Comparatively, I found Mullova less than Vengerov, and Salonen didn't find ALL the humor that Slava did.
The Tchaikovsky is a minute longer than Kremer/DG, so, that's one more minute... one more minute of bliss!
I won't listen to the Schedrin (I'm enjoying a good mood, I have a feeling it would end). I will have to, one day, and, maybe I'll be surprised, but, Schedrin's track record here is... iffy. I'm sure it's on YT.
BEST STRAVINSKY RECOMMENDS
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I'll give this 5 stars for the quality of the performance and hope that Amazon will eventually get me a defect-free mp3 of the first track.
Beautiful and simple, severe and yet highly emotional in Stravinsky's "neo-classic" style, this is a piece of music that the listener can return to over and over again and be fulfilled. It is nothing to be "feared" by people who think the 20th century only brought abstraction to the arts.
The combination of Maxim Vengerov, not yet 30 years old, and Mstislav Rostropovich, almost 70 years old, is absolutely unbeatable. I thought, at first, I was listening to a live concert recording, it was that exciting. This is a recording to treasure
The companion piece, Shchedrin's CONCERTO CANTABILE is new to me and positively beautiful. Rounding out this all Russian program is Tchaikovsky's lovely, more traditionally lyrical SERENADE MELANCOLIQUE.
But first you have to troll thorugh the still waters of the Shchderin, whose "modernism" is fifteen minutes ahead of Fritz Kreisler and fifteeen years behind WW II. The operative question with this composer is just how junky his music will be this time around. In the Concreto Cantabile composed for Vengerov we get the Russian version of Corigliano's Red Violin movie socre--long legato lines interspersed with showy fiddling--but much less melodically inspired. If you're going to be this retrograde, it helps to carry a tune.
As filler we get the Tchaikovsky Serenade Melacholique, which is essentially a wordless aria in the melodic style of Eugene Onegin. Vengerov plays it to the manner born, and although the most minor thing on this CD, the Tchaikovsky makes you feel that Oistrakh has found his spiritual godson.
EMI's sonics are close and larger-than-life, which makes for great impact but also turns Vengerov's tone somewhat coarse and metallic at times. In any event, for anyone who comes for the Stravinsky, this could be the performance of a lifetime.