WEILL Violin Concerto1. IBERT Cello Concerto2. BERG Chamber Concerto3 • Timothy Muffitt, cond; Baton Rouge S Chamber Players; 1,3John Gilbert (vn); 2George Work (vc); 3Dmitri Shteinberg (pn) Read more class="BULLET12"> • SONO LUMINUS DSL-92161 (Blu-ray and CD: 66:39)
This inventive collection brings together three excellent concertos with wind-orchestra accompaniments, all from the 1920s, all on the edge of the repertoire, but none overly familiar. Inventive, but taxing for the listener. The Weill, for all its virtues, remains one of his more difficult (even unlovable) works, with only a few hints of the spiffier masterworks to come; the Berg is more intractable still. And while the Ibert that separates them is lighter in spirit, it too has moments of gnarliness that may surprise you if you know the composer primarily from the Divertissement and Escales. (The Ibert also features what would count as a snide reference to the Shostakovich Seventh—except that the Ibert was written more than a decade earlier.)
It would all be rough going were the performances not so dexterous. The winds, from the Baton Rouge Symphony, play with unerring focus: Balances are excellent, ensemble (as this music demands) is precise, dynamics are well shaded, and there’s plenty of rhythmic energy (listen, in particular, to the impetus that drives the end of the Weill). These works all inhabit a hazy area between chamber music and traditional romantic concertos—while the soloists are faced with abundant challenges, they’re very much firsts among equals rather than stars of the evening. (This is one reason why, when Isaac Stern took on Berg, he did less well with the Chamber Concerto than he did with the Violin Concerto.) The three soloists here meet that need well—they’re all solid virtuosos with evident interpretive imagination, but they’re all ready to share the spotlight. The pure-toned John Gilbert’s interweaving with his colleagues in the Weill is especially impressive (listen, for instance, to the way he plays against the fluent trumpet of James West in the cadenza portion of the second movement).
Granted, I wouldn’t put any of these performances at the top of the list. Frank Peter Zimmermann’s airy and (to quote Adrian Corleonis) “superbly polished” Weill with Mariss Jansons has more phrase-by-phrase personality (Fanfare 22:4); in direct comparison, Gilbert and Muffitt seem marginally unvaried. Similarly, this recording of the Berg, like most others, seems slightly stiff compared to the surprisingly warm account by Tetzlaff, Uchida, and Boulez (for a very different reaction, see Jerry Dubins’s review in 32:5). As for the Ibert: The Baton Rouge players are more secure and zesty than the players of the Michael Krein Orchestra, but Jacqueline du Pré’s mercurial personality gives her recording a significant edge. Still, anyone wanting this combination of repertoire should find these performances more than attractive.
Even if the playing were less adept, however, this release would be worth considering for the spectacular engineering. Although this set comes with a standard CD, it’s the Blu-ray that knocks you out: not so much its stereo tracks (although its high-resolution sound is impressive, when heard on its own), but the multichannel versions (5.1 and 7.1). These, like the 2L Tchaikovsky/Nielsen disc also reviewed in this issue, refuse to limit the surround capabilities to reproduction of hall ambience; instead, we find ourselves in the middle of the ensemble. That kind of aggressive placement can easily be gimmicky (shades of London’s Phase Four)—but in music that’s so complex in its polyphony, the choice of perspective adds greatly to our musical understanding by making sure that each line is spatially distinct. A clear example of technology in the service of art. Strongly recommended.
Concerto for Cello and Windsby Jacques Ibert Performer:
George Work (Cello)
Baton Rouge Symphony Chamber Players
Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin and 13 Windsby Alban Berg Performer:
John Gilbert (Violin),
Dmitri Schteinberg (Piano)
Baton Rouge Symphony Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century Written: 1923-1925; Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Vivid and colorfulOctober 10, 2012By Christopher P. (Shoreline, WA)See All My Reviews"I had never heard any of this music and it all knocked me over. There is endless color and action in each piece. The performances are fantastic, and the sound engineering makes it a demonstration disc for me. I bought this in a store at a normal CD price, but it came with both a normal CD and a Blu-ray that offers the music in up to 7.1 channels (this site says it's a single CD, but that may be a typo). I listened to it in 5.1 and it was stunningly real. Unlike in a lot of surround releases, the engineers didn't try to "put me in the audience" (by putting the musicians forward in the mix and using the surround speakers just for ambiance). I would agree that doing so is the best approach for a lot of music, but in this case the choice to spread out the instruments and put me in the middle (as if I was the conductor) was thrilling. A lot happens in all of these pieces, so having the musicians on all sides helped separate the various lines and let each breathe in a nicely-judged acoustic."Report Abuse