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Dvorak: Violin Concerto, Legends / Tognetti, Lindberg, Nordic CO

Dvorak / Tognetti / Nordic Chamber Orch / Lindberg
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1708  
Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Richard Tognetti
Conductor:  Christian Lindberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nordic Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DVO?ÁK Violin Concerto. Legends Christian Lindberg, cond; Richard Tognetti (vn); Nordic CO BIS 1708 (70:17)

This is my first acquaintance with the work of Australian violinist Richard Tognetti and podium prowess of trombonist-turned-conductor Christian Lindberg. Both are auspicious successes, as is their collaboration.

Tognetti impresses with rock-solid technique; in the solo exposition’s first group, the Brahmsian virtuoso torrent is Read more negotiated with phenomenal assurance, albeit of a rather coolly objective, 21st-century cast. You may miss the romantic concerto manner of yore—the swashbuckling thrills of Ricci (with Sargent/Decca), aristocratic sangfroid of Milstein (Steinberg/Capitol), or white heat of Oistrakh (Kondrashin/Melodiya). But then the dancing C-Major second theme is delectably airborne in its rhythmic lift. The central Adagio is faster than usual (Milstein also moved it along), lending an uncommon sweep and cogency to its long, intricately embellished phrases. There’s a bracingly cool, Scandinavian feeling to the music-making here, as much to do with the transparent chamber-orchestra textures and rhythmic incisiveness as the fluent momentum of the solo playing—again, a refreshingly original alternative to (say) the plangent Slavonic lyricism of Suk/An?erl (Supraphon). The contrasting minor-mode episodes are memorably characterized, leaner and more abrasive than usual. Best of all is the finale, razor-sharp in its rhythmic pointing, the second group’s heady dance procession really lifting off. The fiendishly knotty contrapuntal episode in the middle of the slower central dumka (Rehearsal M)—double- and triple-stops in the solo part, in canon with cellos and basses—is projected with a positively Stravinskyan pungency. The orchestral support is outstanding—clean, transparent, and punchy.

The evergreen Legends has had a good run on CD of late, and this new version continues the tradition: again, perhaps a little on the cool side (overall it’s the fastest version I know, though not by much), but fresh as new paint, with keenly characterful responsiveness to Dvo?ák’s kaleidoscopic succession of varied moods and pictures. It makes a worthy shelf-mate for memorable recent versions from Fischer/Budapest Festival Orchestra (Philips)—exceptionally vividly drawn, tangy and characterful—and Mackerras/Czech Philharmonic (Supraphon)—the great orchestra’s sweet, pungent pastoral idiolect still alive and well. The older Czech Philharmonic tradition can be savored in Šejna’s recording from 1956 (Supraphon), with incomparably fruity rusticity (more wind vibrato in those days, but less in the strings). Also worth seeking out are Kubelík/English Chamber Orchestra (DG)—warm, sweet, and the most freely romantic in expression.

The recording is well up to BIS’s familiar house standards, outstandingly vivid and immediate, and naturally balanced. Altogether a very attractive disc.

FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy


This is a splendid recording, with only one potential drawback to be discussed below. Christian Lindberg's interpretation of the Legends is as fine as any on disc, period. His tempo choices invariably work, the orchestra seems to be an ideal size to let every detail of Dvorák's orchestration tell (listen to the harp in No. 6), and the playing is outstanding. The concluding Legend is deliciously nostalgic without ever sounding too sentimental. Furthermore, these pieces still aren't as well known as they deserve to be, so to have another outstanding version available (in addition to Kubelik, Mackerras, and Fischer if you can find them) on a label that tends to keep its titles in print for a reasonable amount of time is a very good thing.

The concerto also receives an excellent and, more importantly, distinctive performance. Lively tempos keep the music moving with what I can only call passionate freshness; the interpretation sounds like no other. There are moments, particularly in the central Adagio and the "Dumka" interlude in the finale (which Dvorák marks "the same tempo" and where most performances slow down dramatically), where you feel that the music can't be played any other way.

My only quibble is with Richard Tognetti's tone, which for all of his imaginative phrasing and boldness of conception sometimes isn't that attractive. I'm thinking particularly of his clipped and squeaky phrasing of the finale's main theme. Whether this matters terribly will be a matter of personal taste; there's no question that the use of a chamber orchestra provides ideal balances, and that the engineering is outstanding. So this is an almost perfect disc, and many listeners might well be willing to omit the "almost".

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Legends (10) for Orchestra, Op. 59/B 122 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christian Lindberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nordic Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1881; Bohemia 
Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 53 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Richard Tognetti (Violin)
Conductor:  Christian Lindberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nordic Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879-1880; Bohemia 

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