- Violin Concerto (No. 1), Sz. 36, BB 48a
- Violin Concerto (No. 2) in B minor, Sz. 112, BB 117
Though he was not himself a violinist, Béla Bartók managed to compose two incredible violin concertos, the second of which is considered by some to be the most important violin concerto of the 20th century. The first concerto was written for the unrequited love of his youth, violinist Stefi Geyer, who never performed the work publicly and kept hold of the manuscript until her death in 1956. The two-movement work is filled with references to Bartók's relationship with her; the first movement luxuriously romantic and the second a pyrotechnic display of sheer virtuosity. The "Second Concerto" came about nearly two decades later from a commission. Though the work is in a Classical three-movement format, the inner workings are a mesmerizing series of motivic variations entirely of Bartók's design. Performing on this PentaTone Classics album are violinist Arabella Steinbacher and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Marek Janowski. Steinbacher continues in her recent trend of producing exemplary recordings and joining forces with equally refined orchestras. Both concertos are executed with virtually flawless technical accuracy: polished intonation, precise rhythm and articulation, and a right arm that equally creates long, flowing lines and aggressive, forceful accents. Steinbacher's connection with the score is clear as she guides listeners through the emotions of the "First Concerto" and the ingenious variations of the "Second." Janowski leads his orchestra in a sensitive yet robust accompaniment, and PentaTone's sound is rich, full, and clear.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fans of recorded music have always talked about the sense of being more or less in a concert hall, listening to music as real as a live concert. The sound from this disc is so vivid and lifelike that I had a more privileged, intimate feeling. I could imagine that I was present at the recording, one of a handful of hangers-on allowed to sit in Geneva's lovely Victoria Hall while the recording took place, experiencing the creation of something special. I don't have the high-end system or the high-end ears of a true audiophile, but this feeling of the musicians' presence enhanced my enjoyment more than I thought it could. The outstanding quality of Arabella Steinbacher's performance of these two pieces (the second of which tops my list of the greatest 20th century violin concertos) was just as apparent to me when I listened to the MP3s on my iPhone, as was the musicality Marek Janowski brought out from the Suisse Romand Orchestra. But this Hybrid Multichannel Super Audio CD is at the intersection of the highest levels of creation, interpretation, and technology. Watch for this disc to show up on many "Best Of" lists to come!
The opening of the first track of this recording (Allegro non troppo from Concerto No.2) displays Bartok's interest and expertise with eastern European music. Throughout the course of listening to the entire cd, the listener will find rhythmic complexity and drama of modern compositions, swells of romanticism, and heartfelt quiet moments. Arabella Steinbacher does a splendid job as soloist, drawing a silky tone quality from her violin and evoking different emotions throughout. The orchestra and soloist are well balanced; the violin is the centerpiece but blends in at times so that you almost don't recognize the shift from full orchestra to soloist. The liner notes are informative, giving history of the pieces, conductor, soloist, and orchestra. The playing on this recording is all very high quality, and listeners will find these pieces quite challenging from moment to moment. A great listen!