Brahms: Violin Concerto - Lazić, Spano
Channel Classics CCS SA 29410
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Violin Concerto Op. 77 arr. Lazić), 2 Rhapsodies Op. 79, Scherzo in E flat minor Op. 4
Dejan Lazić (piano)
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Robert Spano (conductor)
In his extended liner notes Dejan Lazic explains against the historical background why and how he worked on this major project:
'I started working on this project in early 2003 and completed it in 2008. The violin was always a favourite love, and I continue to hold violinists in high esteem, realising just how wonderful their literature is. Thus far, I have been tremendously lucky to have had many an opportunity to perform with some wonderful colleagues. And it is with a degree of pride that I present after Bach and Beethoven the third 'great B' in the present arrangement. Is one actually 'allowed' to make such an arrangement? With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Brahms made countless arrangements and transcriptions of his and other composers' works. I am convinced these were more than justified; hence, I hope that Brahms himself would not have anything against my idea. What lingers is the rhetorical question of what is a transcription, what makes an arrangement, what may be defined as a new version. The key to this conundrum is that I sought to construct anew the violin part, recomposing the voice in a thorough-going Brahmsian style and adding my own Cadenza. Throughout the piece that was my thought: to imagine what Brahms would do. Of great import is that the orchestral score remains entirely unchanged! With this arrangement - done solely out of respect and admiration for the composer - my main goal was to translate Brahms' unique musical language into a new setting without losing any of its original musical value and, in addition, to give pianists an equal chance to perform and enjoy this wonderful music the same way violinists do for exactly 130 years now.'
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Review by Graham Williams - January 25, 2010
Any controversy in connection with the title of the main work on this SACD becomes totally irrelevant once the disc is in one’s player being auditioned with, hopefully, an unprejudiced ear.
In the booklet notes accompanying this recording Dejan Lazic clearly lays out his reasons and justification for undertaking his arrangement. These include respect and admiration for Brahms’s music in general, and the Violin Concerto in particular, as well as a desire to produce an idiomatic version of it for piano and orchestra that he could perform himself. Naturally he also refers to the violin concerto arrangements made for keyboard by composers such as Bach and Beethoven, and there are countless others that he could have mentioned. He is arguably on more shaky ground when he writes that “… Brahms had always composed as a pianist (at the piano) and therefore felt this music as a pianist...”
Having worked on his project for five years Lazic gave the first performance of his arrangement in Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Centre, Atlanta in October 2009 accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony orchestra under the enterprising Robert Spano. This world premiere recording has been compiled from that concert and a subsequent one. Perhaps the two main questions needing to be addressed in this review are: does Lazic’s arrangement sound convincing and does the musical world really need it?
The answer to the first of these questions is undoubtedly yes, as the piano part Lazic has constructed is echt-Brahmsian, constantly bringing to mind the style and sound world of the piano writing found in both of Brahms’s two Piano Concertos. Furthermore, he has sensibly left the orchestral part completely unaltered, something for which most listeners will be grateful. The initial entry of the soloist in the first movement, following Spano’s relaxed introduction, comes as a shock, but one quickly adjusts to the very different and generally heavier sound of the piano compared with the more slender and familiar violin tones.
Lazic has sensibly not tried to transcribe any of the usual cadenzas by Joachim, Kreisler or Heifetz, but has written a new one that is certainly idiomatic if a trifle rambling.
The magic of the violin’s cantilena in the slow movement, following a sensitively played oboe solo, is, of course, missing, although the piano part seems to allow the accompaniment to emerge with even greater clarity than usual. The finale, an exuberant Rondo alla Zingarese that draws on Brahms’s love of Hungarian gypsy music and is also something of a homage to Joachim, is surprisingly successful in Lazic’s version.
The live recording is warm and spacious, though a little diffuse, and the audience presence is rarely noticed. Enthusiastic applause is retained, though most, but not all of it, is contained on a separate track.
The answer as to whether this arrangement is needed is something about which individual listeners will have to make up their own minds. It certainly makes one listen to the music with fresh ears, but in the final analysis also makes one grateful to return to Brahms’s original work. Lazic’s arrangement will always remain a curiosity, but a brilliantly conceived one.
The substantial solo piano fill-ups recorded in the studio (Frits Philips Musiekcentrum, Eindhoven) are most impressive. In the two Rhapsodies Lazic’s playing combines strength and tenderness in equal measure, while his virile performance of the early Scherzo is equally compelling.
An intriguing issue worth investigating.
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