Notes and Editorial Reviews
“quasi una fantasia.”
Ursula Bagdasarjanz (vn); Francesco d’Avalos, cond;
Leopoldo Casella, cond;
GALLO 1250, analog (56:07) Broadcast: 1970;
Othmar Schoeck gave the first performance of his Violin Concerto, dedicated to Stefi Geyer (Bartók’s erstwhile inamorata) on March 16, 1912, accompanying violinist Willem de Boer (violin teacher, incidentally, of Ursula Bagdasarjanz’s mother) at the piano. It’s imbued with a nostalgic brand of late Romanticism, replete with chromatic twinges (in the manner of Khachaturian without the ethnic accents, but rising to passages even more lyrical in a manner reminiscent of, say, Bruch’s Second Concerto, while remaining firmly tonal) and taking advantage, as did Glazunov’s Concerto, of the violin’s lyrical capabilities. While the notes by Beat Föllmi suggest that by the 1960s Schoeck’s became “unseasonable,” his blend of the grand manner with lyricism should lend the Violin Concerto, at least (a relatively early work), an immediate appeal for violinists. The first movement, Allegretto, makes a strong, nearly symphonic statement, with the violin solo woven thematically into the orchestral texture, yet rising commandingly above it without engaging in truly virtuosic display. Bagdasarjanz sounds, in this third volume of her collected performances issued by Gallo, as strong and reedy as in the volumes I’ve reviewed with piano, yet with great sympathy for Schoeck’s almost anachronistic idiom. The recorded sound, from 1970, brings the soloist forward, making the edginess of her sound more obvious than it might have been in the concert hall. That edginess might not have sorted so well with the slow movement’s melodic outpouring (interrupted by a bright and sprightly middle section) were it not for Bagdasarjanz’s affinity with the work’s ambiance. The third movement, at 9:26, the shortest of the three, begins more playfully, but the mood of the fantasia that permeates the first two movements soon reasserts itself, though the jollity returns at the very end. With congenial orchestral support, especially in its most lavish moments, Bagdasarjanz’s assured performance makes a most appealing work available and ought, in a more perfect world, to inspire others to take it up.
Somewhat beyond Schoeck’s Concerto in its RDA of saturated fat, Glazunov’s offers an almost over-rich Romantic repast; Bagdasarjanz (with the same orchestra) sounds tonally even more beguiling in this chestnut, recorded nine years earlier (1961): not as taut perhaps as Heifetz or Milstein, who almost owned the Concerto (her tempos at the work’s opening, for example, sound more deliberate), nor as tonally opulent as Rabin, but warmly communicative nonetheless, especially in the second, Andante, section, in which she could draw unwary listeners willy-nilly into the surging waves of sentiment. While the orchestra may lack the ultimate discipline, a similar deficiency could hardly be found in Bagdasarjanz’s technical command—until her rhapsodic double-stops in the return of the first tempo after the Andante, and occasionally in the cadenza, which sound more strained than sonorous. The finale, however, poses challenges, both tonal and technical, which she seems not to have completely solved, and occasional patches of intonation, misfired passagework, and, more generally, a sense of insecurity make it less assured than the Concerto’s earlier sections.
Although not perhaps attracted to Bagdasarjanz’s performance of Glazunov’s warhorse, most collectors of violin recordings should nevertheless explore her reading of Schoeck’s Concerto, which can be warmly recommended to them and probably to general listeners as well.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 82 by Alexander Glazunov
Ursula Bagdasarjanz (Violin)
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Written: 1904; Russia
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