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Barber, Walton: Violin Concertos / Bell, Zinman, Baltimore


Release Date: 01/09/2007 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 000797002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernest BlochSamuel BarberSir William Walton
Performer:  Joshua Bell
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Over the last few years a surprising number of fine recordings have appeared of the Barber Violin Concerto, notably those from Gil Shaham and Itzhak Perlman, both ripely romantic with the soloist sounding all the richer for being forwardly placed. These two latest versions both have the soloist less forward, and though in places the results are less inviting, the poetry is if anything even more intense, notably in Bell’s Decca recording. There in the central slow movement the long, opening oboe solo leads to a magically hushed first entry for the violin, rapt and intense, and the balance of the soloist also allows a quicksilver lightness for the rushing triplets in the moto perpetuo finale. Shaham may find more humour in that brief Read more movement, but Bell’s view is equally valid, and can be recommended strongly if the Walton/Bloch coupling is preferred.

. . . Joshua Bell’s coupling of the Barber Violin Concerto with Walton and Bloch brings together three highly romantic concertante works. From an American perspective Walton can well be seen as Barber’s British counterpart, not least in this concerto written for Heifetz with an American first performance in mind. As in Heifetz’s original Cincinnati recording and Francescatti’s later Philadelphia one, the playing of an American orchestra – here the Baltimore Symphony – is warmly idiomatic, defying the idea that non-British orchestras find Walton difficult.

Bell gives a commanding account of the solo part, even matching Heifetz himself in the ease of his virtuosity. As in the Barber concerto the balance allows the triplets in the central scherzo to be delivered with quicksilver lightness, and I love the way that Bell treats the central cadenza of the first movement expansively, making it more deeply reflective.

Not just there but in many gentle moments the rapt intensity of his playing is magnetic. There are points which I still prefer in two earlier Decca versions – Kyung-Wha Chung’s with Previn (5/73 – alas currently unavailable) and Tasmin Little’s warmly expressive one with Andrew Litton, but Bell’s is among the finest ever, with Bloch’s own 1939 orchestration of Baal Shem offering a fine, unusual makeweight.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [7/1997]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Baal shem by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Joshua Bell (Violin)
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; USA 
Notes: Orchestrated: 1939 
2.
Concerto for Violin, Op. 14 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Joshua Bell (Violin)
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
3.
Concerto for Violin in B minor by Sir William Walton
Performer:  Joshua Bell (Violin)
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1939; England 

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