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Britten: Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto / Richter, Britten

Release Date: 05/05/1989 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 417308   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Sviatoslav RichterMark Lubotsky
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This record tempts me to name-dropping reminiscence! I bought the original LP in July 1971 and during the following month was in the composer's Aldeburgh home and referred not only to the issue itself but also JW's Gramophone review, in which he said that in the Piano Concerto Richter and Britten together brought out a certain Russianness and that, while he thought this was a performance likely to remain unrivalled on record, he ''would dearly like to hear Britten himself in the work''. Britten said that he agreed that there was a Russian flavour to the piece, but modestly added (with his typical wry smile) that although he had been able to play the solo part when he gave the premiere and other early performances, he certainly could not do Read more so any longer. He added with some pride that Richter had learned the concerto ''entirely off his own bat''. The playing here is first rate: a crisp, vital and persuasive account of a work which, with its rather relentless bravura and 1930s brittleness, is not in my view really among Britten's best of the period.

The Violin Concerto composed a year later in Canada appeals to me more; it has much more openness of personal feeling and a final elegiac coda of haunting beauty. But there's still no shortage of virtuoso demands, and indeed Heifetz once asked Britten over a lunch to simplify it or allow him to do so! The composer resisted but was concerned enough to ask Manoug Parikian's advice, which was to leave it as it was. There are some demanding passages of which Lubotsky makes heavy weather (listen from the 1'34'' point of the first movement, for example) and like many other players he slows down considerably and very noticeably in the central scherzo from the marked—and elsewhere played—tempo of dotted crotchet = 104 in the notorious passage beginning at the 4'35'' mark, with its scales in double artificial harmonics. But if not quite in the class of Richter's, this is still a good performance which wears well and conveys the work's powerful feeling. Good sound in both concertos, recorded in The Maltings, Snape.

-- Christopher Headington, Gramophone [10/1989]
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in D major, Op. 13 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter (Piano)
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938/1945; England 
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 15 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Mark Lubotsky (Violin)
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939/1958; England 

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