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Bloch, Lees: Violin Concertos / Oliveira, Williams, Ukraine National Symphony


Release Date: 04/29/2008 
Label:  Artek   Catalog #: 42   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ernest BlochBenjamin Lees
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira
Conductor:  John McLaughlin Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Ernest Bloch's Violin Concerto is rarely encountered in the concert hall despite its abundance of color, melody, emotional substance, and virtuoso opportunities. Fortunately, there are several fine recordings, starting with the classic Szigeti/Mengelberg performance. The most recent of those, by Zina Schiff, was favorably reviewed by David Hurwitz last year. Now comes another, a superb performance in vibrant, natural sound, by Elmar Oliveira with a Ukrainian orchestra conducted by an American, John McLaughlin Williams.

Bloch's first movement is dramatic, beginning with a fanfare-like invocation in the brass and a long, defiant solo cadenza; this is followed by a slow movement of
Read more mystical cast and cantorial inflections, and a finale in which meditative musings give way to affirmation. Oliveira is commanding throughout, his tone ranging freely across Bloch's idiomatic writing, with an edgy dynamism to his playing. Williams and the orchestra are fine, making much of Bloch's colorful orchestration, with its mournful wind cries and brass interjections.

Another neglected concerto shares the disc--Benjamin Lees' Violin Concerto. It's an interesting work with lovely touches: a first-movement cadenza that exploits the full range of the violin, a haunting chorale in the winds that opens the Adagio, and an exuberant final movement. It's a good complement to the Bloch, but even after several hearings little sticks in the memory. The Bloch though, is a masterpiece, and the dilemma for collectors is which version to get.

Szigeti, whether with Mengelberg or in a Music & Arts box, a live performance with Mitropoulos in decent sound, is a must. Those wanting a well-recorded modern version have choices, including the two most recent. Schiff on Naxos is passionate, intense, and lyrical. Her conductor, Jose Serebrier, creates more atmosphere and rhythmic control than Williams does. But Williams and his Ukrainian band are very good and Oliveira more than matches Schiff in passionate intensity. In the upper ranges of the instrument his color and bite pay huge dividends in drama, while, if you're in a nit-picking mood, Schiff's tone sometimes can sound bleached. In many ways the choice lies between a more Dionysian approach (Oliveira) and a more Olympian one (Schiff). I'd give the nod to Oliveira, but wouldn't want to be without the Schiff.

--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Violin by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  John McLaughlin Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937-1938; Switzerland 
2. Concerto for Violin by Benjamin Lees
Performer:  Elmar Oliveira (Violin)
Conductor:  John McLaughlin Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 

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