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Glass: Violin Concerto; Schnittke / Kremer, Dohnanyi

Release Date: 01/25/1993 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 437091   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Philip GlassAlfred Schnittke
Performer:  Gidon KremerRainer Keuschnig
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Violin Concerto (1987) is Philip Glass's first large-scale score for conventional orchestra without voices. In all other respects it's quite characteristic of him in its chugging ostinato rhythms, its repetitive pattern-making (no less repetitive for the frequent permutational changes), its simple and slowly changing harmony. One feature, however, that's all the more apparent because of the work's scoring is the fact that his music lacks melody. Euphonious, singable, even memorable simple patterns of intervals, yes, but nothing that could seriously be described as a tune. Tunes, almost by their nature, demand development, and Glass's music changes but does not develop. The lack is all the more noticeable because the character of the Read more violin set against repetitive figures (as it often is in baroque concertos) seems to cry out for a cantabile that will soar above those figures. Glass's soloist often proceeds in longer note-values than the orchestra, the effect, though, is of the violin being in a different gear to the orchestra but driven by the same engine. Others may find his infallibly dulcet sound-world and the undoubted allure of pure and simple intervals a satisfying substitute for music in which something of consequence happens, in which surprise and conflict are possible. I cannot.

Schnittke's violin concerto (for that is what it is, despite its title) describes the cycle of the seasons. If we hadn't already guessed that his temperamental affinity is with winter, this work would prove it. Spring is a time of dancing, but there's more than a hint of burlesque to this waltz-measure: not only the waltz but the city of its origin is the object of Schnittke's irony. Summer too, is dance; but also march-based (strong echoes of Stravinsky's Soldier, lighter ones of Berg's Wozzeck), while autumn (heralded by the alarming apparition of an amplified piano, played by a concealed performer) is filled with ominous warnings: bells and a mysterious harpsichord 'continuo'. Winter is an elegy becoming first protesting (the orchestra congeals in dense chords around the soloist) then, as so often with Schnittke, a distinctly Shostakovich-derived quiet threnody. As so often with Schnittke also, cogent discussion and vividly striking imagery are at times combined with a sort of all-purpose angular modernism (one senses him saying exasperatedly ''Well, what else am I supposed to do?'') that is disconcerting, but somehow part of his troubled but arresting musical psychology. Kremer and Dohnanyi are obviously deeply in sympathy with Schnittke's expressive world and the performance is a fine one, lucidly recorded.

-- Michael Oliver, Gramophone [10/1993]
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin by Philip Glass
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/1992 
Venue:  Live  Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 24 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Concerto Grosso no 5 by Alfred Schnittke
Performer:  Rainer Keuschnig (Piano), Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990-1991; Russia 
Date of Recording: 11/1991 
Venue:  Live  Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 27 Minutes 35 Secs. 

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