FOERSTER Violin Concertos: No. 1 in c;1 No. 2 in d • Ivan Ženatý (vn); Ji?í B?lohlávek, cond; BBC SO • SUPRAPHON 3961 (65:23) Live: London 12/8/20071
Jan Kubelík urged Josef Bohuslav Foerster to write his First Violin Concerto, which Kubelík played for the first time in Chicago in October 1910. It’s a grand Romantic work, as ingratiating melodically as Bruch’s or Goldmark’s concertos butRead more colored—or, at least, tinted—with references to the composer’s Czech ethnicity but even more strongly influenced by the virtuoso tradition, which it perhaps owes to Kubelík, who wrote a cadenza for the premiere that bejewels its soaring melodiousness. (The notes also explain that the Concerto served as a sort of test run for Foerster’s fourth opera, The Unvanquished, with its violinist-composer hero.) Ivan Ženatý plays the work’s first movement authoritatively, adding his own cadenza, which differs in style—as so many violinists’ cadenzas do—from the composer’s passages that surround it. Ženatý draws a rich tone from the lower registers of the 1743 Prince of Orange Guarneri del Gesù and a pure and clean sound from its upper ones; such tonal opulence enables him to mine the slow movement’s rich melodic vein. The third movement opens with a triple-time dance-like theme; many virtuoso concertos concluded with dance-like finales, but this one, marked Allegro grazioso, seems more elegantly balletic. Ženatý is at home in the work’s declamatory passages (as at the first movement’s opening) as well as in the ruminative slow movement or in the comparatively genial finale. The engineers have balanced the sonorous orchestral part and the brilliant solo in this live performance (with applause at the end). I believe the performance of the First Concerto on Orfeo 403971 may no longer be available.
The Second Concerto (the program claims to offer the first complete performance of both works), the notes accede, has not claimed the attention of violinists. Sketched in 1917 and 1918 and completed in 1926, the Concerto received its premiere on January 19, 1927. Of a piece with the First Concerto melodically, the Second nevertheless lacks its bravura, relying more heavily on pervasive lyricism. But such ingratiating melodiousness, projected against occasionally gauzy orchestration, should compensate for the Concerto’s lack of brilliance. The first two movements, marked Andante sostenuto and Andante moderato (the second movement flowing almost seamlessly out of the first), finally give way to a concluding Allegro. But while those first two movements hardly lack drama—the orchestra occasionally surges as sonorously as it does in Chausson’s Poème or Delius’s Concerto—the general atmosphere remains ecstatically if intimately tranquil. Even the finale, which begins with a hint of the folk dance, settles back into its characteristic melodic warmth. The recorded sound remains balanced throughout the Second Concerto in a way similar to that of the First, though the studio recording sessions took place on December 4–5, 2007, at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios.
Foerster’s violin concertos offer a continuation of the luxurious melodic flow of those by Bruch, Goldmark, and, especially, Dvo?ák; and Ženatý’s sympathetic performances should provide a warm-hearted introduction to them even for listeners not favorably disposed to the violin music of this period. Very strongly recommended.
Concerto for Violin no 1 in C minor, Op. 88by Josef Bohuslav Foerster Performer:
Ivan Zenaty (Violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1910-1911; Bohemia
Outstanding!August 14, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Czech composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster's two sublime violin concertos were written in the early 20th century, sandwiched around World War 1. I cannot say with any certainty how WW1's effect on Foerster's homeland might have influenced his compositional style. It is clear, nevertheless, that some stylistic differences between the two works are readily detectable. Violin Concerto #1 is a gorgeous, lyrical composition, a direct descendant of the brilliant late Romantic era sound of Central European classical music in the latter 19th century. Violinist Ivan Zenaty's lush, powerful solo work is beautifully accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a live recording that was obviously well recieved by the London audience (judging by the extended and warm applause at the end). Violin Concerto #2, a studio recording, makes a somewhat different case, a more loosely organized composition almost in the nature of a 3-movement symphonic suite, again centered around the distinctive and thoroughly satisfying dialog between Zenaty's solo work and the solid orchestral backing of the BBCSO. Supraphon informs the listener that this recording is a 'world premiere complete recording,' which brings up the question of why music of this high caliber has waited so long to be made available. I am sure most classical music fans have a natural affinity for Czech music, and I am further certain that this excellent Supraphon CD will be seen and heard for what it is- a fabulous listening experience provided by a very fine soloist, outstanding orchestra and conductor, and above all by the composer himself. By all means, give this one a listen- it's really good! Highly recommended."Report Abuse