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Violin Concerto / Variations on America Import
- アーティスト: Philippe Quint
- アーティスト: Philippe Quint
A life-long ambassador for American music, William Schuman (1910-1992) is known above all for his powerful Third Symphony (1941), though his substantial output is now being reassessed. The Violin Concerto (1959) is a good place to start: there's the high-velocity orchestral writing of his earlier music, but also a pensive, brooding quality that speaks of the uncertainty of the Cold War era . The solo part, perhaps mindful of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto which took the US by storm in 1955, is virtuosic with an emotional depth to match, and effortlessly sustains itself over the two large-scale movements of Schuman's unorthodox yet effective design. Violinist Philip Quint is fully equal to the task, and José Serebrier, a seasoned champion of American music, steers the performance convincingly. New England Triptych makes inventive and exciting play with three 17th-century hymn-tunes by William Billings, while the 1963 orchestration of Charles Ives' youthful Variations on "America" (more recognisable to UK listeners as the National Anthem!) is pure fun. With spacious sound that lacks nothing in impact, this is an excellent introduction to a composer of real personality. --Richard Whitehouse
While I'm not familiar to any great extent with the artists featured, the playing sounds exemplar to my ears. It's another, very fine and low budget gem from the good people at NAXOS and I'm quite satisfied with it.
I have come to the conclusion over the past decade or so that the Bournemouth players were simply not quite a world class ensemble. Well, listening to this disc certainly proves that was not always the case. Considering that this disc was recorded in 2001 - before Marin Alsop arrived in Bournemouth and practically ruined them, and Kirill Karabits continues the trend by snoozing through most of his conducting efforts with this group - one must surmise just exactly what these observations indicate: the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra used to be right up there with the best. But alas, with poor back-to-back music-director choices, their quality has fallen substantially over the years. Their limp response in recent recordings for Karabits (for Naxos, Onyx and Decca) is certainly not the fault of the recording teams. Indeed Naxos's 2001 recording here for this all-Schuman program under Serebrier is extremely impressive - dynamic and dramatic, full-bodied and powerful. This certainly contributes to the overall magnificence of these performances. Indeed, the 1st movement of the Violin Concerto and "Be Glad Then America" from New England Triptych left me exclaiming: "WOW!" When was the last time a recording from Bournemouth has done much more than put you to sleep?
I've written it before (Benedetti's Korngold Concerto recording) and I'll write it again: poor Bournemouth - they deserve so much better. But until their management wakes up and hires a competent conductor, we'll remember them as they used to be. This disc is a fabulous memorial and a glimmer of what they might become again one day.
One problem solved is a lengthy search I had been making for the CD transfer of a 30-year-old LP, by Paul Zukofsky with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Boston Symphony, of the premiere recording of the "final" version of Schuman's Violin Concerto. While I had at least one stop-gap CD (Robert McDuffie, with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra) to tide me over, that performance never seemed to have the same visceral excitement that Zukofsky's did. This new Naxos performance, featuring Philip Quint (my first hearing of Mr. Quint) not only puts into retirement the McDuffie/Slatkin recording; it also exceeds the Zukofsky/Tilson Thomas recording by a comfortable margin. Quint is fully the technical and lyrical equal of Zukofsky. More importantly, the performance of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of José Serebrier is stunningly virtuosic, and the whole is captured in equally stunning sound. The extended timpani solo that opens the second movement, to mention just one performance highlight beyond the solo work of Mr. Quint, is a bravura performance and the sound quality is of a level that would do any high-end audiophile label proud.
Another problem solved is a similar search for a CD transfer of an elderly LP, this one a recording of Ives's "Variations on `America'" as orchestrated by Schuman, with Morton Gould and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (This, when it was intially released, had been coupled with the world premiere recording of Ives's First Symphony and "The Unanswered Question." A CD transfer of the First Symphony had an entirely different coupling.) These variations - whether in the original organ version (which Ives's father forbade him to play in church, lest "the boys giggle") or in this famous Schuman orchestration - are a lot of fun for most Americans. Since the tune is also "God Save The Queen," one hopes that the Bournemouth musicians got an equal level of enjoyment out of the performance. The recording certainly suggests that they did.
The CD that truly gets retired with this Naxos acquisition is the Howard Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra recording of Schuman's "New England Triptych." Despite its age (1963), it has held up exceedingly well, and was always one of the very best of the Mercury Living Presence CD transfers. But this new Naxos performance is the hands-down winner on all counts: orchestral precision, ability to follow inner voices with ease, sublime string playing in the "When Jesus Wept" movement, the best percussion work I've ever heard in the concluding "Chester" movement, and of course sonics.
To this Bill Schuman aficianado, these three works - when taken with his masterpiece, his Third Symphony - serve well to sample his abilities as a composer. (Well, the Ives orchestration may be considered "Schuman Lite," but it's certainly fun.) Each of these Naxos takes is at the top of its class, in my not-so-humble opinion. To get all three together, at this price, can best be described as a "ka-ching!" (the sound of a cash register, if you've never seen the expression before).
This is not the first time that I've commented on the work of Serebrier at these Amazon.com pages. An earlier review of his Reference Recordings CD of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheherazade" and "Great Russian Easter Overture," with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, garnered equally high praise (but coming at a considerably higher price than this Naxos CD, of course). What Serebrier seems to bring to these quite disparate sets of works, orchestras and labels is an attention to detail, a precision of orchestral performance, and a balance of all choirs and instruments in the orchestras that is significantly above the norm. I sense that part of his conductorial "toolkit" is his skill in getting the musicians to truly listen to each other as they play; failing this, I'd be at a loss to explain the results he obtains. Admittedly, this is a small sample on which to base an opinion, much less a conclusion, but it is my opinion that Maestro Serebrier is a "sleeper" amidst the current flock of publicist-driven music directors. Which gets me, finally, to the challenge: Will this new Naxos disc survive my "test-to-destruction" efforts that some recently memorable Naxos discs have? I think it will.