Tchaikovsky / Glazunov: Violin Concertos - Gluzman / Litton
Classical - Orchestral
Alexander Glazunov: Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42 (arr. Glazunov), Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35
Vadim Gluzman (violin)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Litton (conductor)
The great Russian tradition of violin playing, as exemplified by Efrem Zimbalist, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein, was largely founded by the distinguished violinist Leopold Auer, who taught at the St Petersburg Conservatory for fifty years.
This disc combines two works for violin and orchestra, both to some extent composed with Auer in mind, performed by Ukrainian-born Vadim Gluzman playing on Auer’s own instrument, a Stradivarius built in 1690. Tchaikovsky composed his Concerto in D major in 1878 and asked Auer to give the first performance. Auer was reluctant to do so, however, and didn’t perform the concerto until 1892, by which time it had already begun to reach the level of popularity that it has enjoyed ever since.
Some ten years later, Auer was again approached in a similar matter. This time he was more amenable, and in 1905 premièred Glazunov’s Concerto in A minor, at a concert conducted by the composer. Apart from having Auer as a common denominator, the two works are quite dissimilar. Tchaikovsky’s concerto is characterised by a melodic flow reminiscent of his ballet music, and remains one of his freshest works, whereas Glazunov’s concerto displays all the virtues of the composer’s opulent late-Romantic style, with beautiful craftsmanship and rich orchestral colour.
The two works are bridged on this disc by the three pieces collectively called Souvenir d’un lieu cher, which Tchaikovsky composed for violin and piano at around the time of the concerto. (Indeed, the first of its three movements, entitled Méditation, was originally intended as the slow movement of the concerto.) Three years after Tchaikovsky’s death, Glazunov made an orchestration of the piano part.
Eminent violinist Vadim Gluzman has previously released three highly acclaimed discs on BIS, all of them featuring music from the Soviet and the post-Soviet era. About ‘Time … and again’ (BIS-CD-1392), which includes Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, BBC Music Magazine wrote: ‘Every phrase resounds with passion and sensitivity. A really superb disc.’ The same applies to this his first concerto disc on BIS, on which Gluzman enjoys the committed support of Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under its music director Andrew Litton, well-known for his affinity with the great Russian orchestral repertoire.
Review by Mark Novak - February 18, 2010
I bought this (despite not really needing another Tchaikovsky Vln Cto disc) because of the excellent Bloch/Bernstein/Barber SACD with these same forces. Vadim Gluzman is an amazingly talented violinist and his playing here is of the same very high calibre as the B/B/B release. I would put his playing of the Tchaikovsky up against any current violinist, it is that good. His intonation is nigh on perfect, his tone is vibrant and sweet in cantabile (just listen to the high harmonics in the last movement - it almost sounds like someone whistling the melody, an effect I've never quite heard like this before) and forceful and vigorous (but never crude) in forte passages. Supremely musical. But, it takes more than an outstanding soloist to play a concerto. In this case, Andrew Litton conducts the Bergen Philharmonic in an appropriately supportive fashion. There are moments where Litton and crew can barely keep up with Gluzman and the spell of Gluzman's playing is slightly marred. Overall though, the accompaniment is top notch.
The accompanying pieces, Glazunov's violin concerto and the orchestral arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher, are also very well done. Glazunov's concerto doesn't come close to having the memorable tunes that Tchaik's does and is a much less interesting composition as a result. The performance here wrings the most from the work and, again, Gluzman's playing is wonderful. I prefer Gluzman to Julia Fischer in the Glazunov. I especially liked the Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher in it's orchestral garb making this a well-filled SACD with 70+ minutes of music.
The stereo sonics are very good. The soloist is spot-lit (hard to get away from that in recordings) but not so much as many. I miss some low end fullness and bloom which seems to be a consistent feature of the BIS recordings coming from Bergen but the massed strings have a natural sound as do the winds and brass. Highly recommended.
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