Notes and Editorial Reviews
George Rochberg composed his Violin Concerto for Issac Stern, who premiered it 1975. The work was a hit, with Stern playing it some 47 times between 1975 and 1977. However, Stern insisted the work was too long and requested cuts of some 14 minutes, to which the composer reluctantly agreed. Feeling these excisions undermined the music's impact, conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee undertook restoration of the Concerto to its original form (with the composer's blessing), resulting in the version heard on this recording. It is indeed a massive work, and at nearly 52 minutes, it's certainly one of the longest (if not the longest) violin concertos ever composed. But given Rochberg's powerfully dramatic and
rhetorical style, there's never a dull moment.
The solo violin launches the work with an imposing, strident theme of indeterminate tonality before the orchestra joins in the musical conflagration. Rochberg seems to have taken Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2 as a starting-point, something most evident in the angular and rhythmically complex first movement and in the mysteriously serene Intermezzo B, where Rochberg makes prodigious use of a melodic fragment found in Bartók's first-movement cadenza. But there are hints of other 20th century voices as well: Intermezzo A features a frenzied energy usually associated with Schnittke, while various parts of the score occasionally bring to mind Barber and the film music of Bernard Herrmann. That said, there's no doubting that this work is pure Rochberg, and those familiar with the composer certainly will recognize his inimitable orchestral style, with its wonderfully craggy low brass writing (listen to how he builds those arresting stacked tutti chords, with the bass tuba frequently adding the last, unnerving tone). The Epilogue initially recalls the agitation of the first movement, but it soon becomes calmer as the violin brings the work to a close with a solemn incantation.
In his booklet note violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved writes of how he made it his personal mission to conquer the solo part, and the results show in his impassioned, virtuosic reading. Lyndon-Gee leads the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony in an enthralling performance that reveals Rochberg's Concerto for the masterpiece it is. Naxos has provided detailed and wide-ranging sound that presents soloist and orchestra in a believable perspective. No collector of 20th century music should be without this disc. [06/21/2004]
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin by George Rochberg
Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1974; USA
Date of Recording: 04/2002
Venue: Halberg Broadcasting House, Germany
Length: 51 Minutes 44 Secs.
Notes: Restored original version by Christopher Lyndon-Gee in collaboration with the composer in 2001.
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