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Prokofiev: The Violin Concertos / Berman, Boreyko, Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana

Prokofiev / Berman / Tifu / Odsi / Boreyko
Release Date: 04/26/2011 
Label:  Dynamic   Catalog #: 676   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Pavel BermanAnna Tifu
Conductor:  Andrey Boreyko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PROKOFIEV Violin Concertos: No. 1; No. 2. Sonata for 2 Violins 1 Pavel Berman, 1 Anna Tifu (vn); Andrey Boreyko, cond; Svizzera Italiana O DYNAMIC 676 (62:23)

How much does it say about evolving musical preferences that during two decades of reviewing violin recordings, I’ve fairly often been assigned Dmitri Shostakovich’s violin concertos and sonata but less frequently Sergei Prokofiev’s concertos (although his sonatas Read more and other works for violin and piano have come my way relatively frequently). In any case, Pavel Berman, playing the 1716 Berthier Stradivari on loan to him from the Pro Canale Foundation, gives a richly melodic reading of the First Concerto’s Andantino that doesn’t quite explore its haunting recesses (for that, consider Joseph Szigeti’s readings or David Oistrakh’s—two very dissimilar takes on the movement, and the concerto as a whole, that set expressive milestones in the first decades of its existence). In the Scherzo, however, Berman, in close collaboration with Andrey Boreyko and the Svizzera Italiana Orchestra, discovers rhythmic detail that makes the movement seem all the more tantalizingly cocky (Dynamic’s engineers, capturing so much orchestral detail, facilitate the performers’ interpretive idea). That attention to rhythmic detail continues into the jaunty yet lyrical third movement. They increase in agitation almost to the breaking point before the return of the concerto’s opening theme at the end, although this summation glows with less ecstatic radiance than Isaac Stern imparted to it.

Jascha Heifetz championed the Second Concerto, recording it twice, with Serge Koussevitzky in 1937 and with Charles Munch in 1959, and his electricity in both the biting rhythmic passages and the soaring lyrical ones set one kind of benchmark. Berman and Boreyko, sympathetic to Prokofiev’s motoric moments, generate in the first movement a voltage that, if it’s somewhat lower than Heifetz’s, still makes currents dance between the electrodes; the engineers, capturing the soloist fairly close up, transmit much of the energy that powers Berman’s tone—especially in the lower registers—directly to the listener. Berman and Boreyko don’t create such a strong sense of elegance, albeit of a diaphanous and ethereal sort, as did Heifetz and Munch (perhaps because Berman takes the swirling passages more slowly), but they’re songful and convincing in their own way (they’re especially crisp in the mordant passages), and the engineers, bringing out countermelodies, create added interest. In the finale, Berman and Boreyko balance orchestral savagery with sharp violinistic thrusts, and they make an especially cogent statement in the movement’s last measures.

The Sonata for Two Violins came, according to Danilo Prefumo’s customarily informative booklet notes, as a response to a sonata he didn’t identify for the same forces that he had encountered and disliked. A performance by David and Igor Oistrakh of the sonata, available on EMI DVB 4928379 ( Fanfare 27:1), may be humanized in its first movement by watching the two violinists turn pages, but it didn’t create such a strong impression of lyricism in the first movement as does Berman’s with Anna Tifu, who in this performance plays a 1739 [Carlo] Bergonzi violin, also on loan from the Pro Canale Foundation. If they’re not quite so fierce in the second movement, they bark harshly enough to scare off intruders, and they give a perhaps better glimpse into the movement’s rich melodic vein. The two violinists exchange ideas with compelling, intense energy in the finale’s bustling passages and redolently in its lyrical ones.

Dynamic’s release, sympathetically played, especially in the two concertos, and revealingly recorded throughout (in the Auditorium RSI in Lugano on October 19 and 22, 2010), should appeal to collectors of all kinds. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 1 in D major, Op. 19 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Pavel Berman (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrey Boreyko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; Russia 
Concerto for Violin no 2 in G minor, Op. 63 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Pavel Berman (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrey Boreyko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Paris, France 
Sonata for 2 Violins in C major, Op. 56 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Pavel Berman (Violin), Anna Tifu (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; Paris, France 

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