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Britten, Bruch, Benjamin: Double Concertos / Schmid, Berlin

Release Date: 03/13/2007 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 898260   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arthur BenjaminBenjamin BrittenMax Bruch
Performer:  Benjamin SchmidDaniel Raiskin
Conductor:  Lior Shambadal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BENJAMIN Romantic Fantasy. BRITTEN (ed. Matthews) Concerto for Violin and Viola. BRUCH Concerto for Clarinet and Viola in e Benjamin Schmid (vn); Daniel Raiskin (va); Lior Shambadal, cond; Berlin SO ARTE NOVA 898260 (63:59)

This is a welcome release, particularly at Arte Nova’s low price. The Read more style="font-style:italic">Romantic Fantasy in particular needed a newly minted recording. Even if Schmid and Raiskin don’t erase memories of Heifetz and Primrose, hearing the work in fresh up-to-date sound reminds one why Australian-born Arthur Benjamin was an extremely successful and popular composer.

The work’s opening motif, a horn call from the Mahler Fourth Symphony’s last movement, immediately is transformed into sounds reminiscent of the late-Romantic world of Korngold. The latter master is not such a far-fetched comparison as Benjamin had a fine career writing for the cinema as well, having composed memorable scores for Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Scarlet Pimpernel , among others films. Benjamin’s fame was established by the extraordinarily popular Jamaican Rumba, a concert and recording staple of nearly every important violin virtuoso. (The Jamaican government awarded the composer an annual barrel of rum as thanks for all the publicity the famed Rumba provided!)

At the same time, there is an English strain of wistful romanticism in Benjamin tinged with a post-World War I streak of pessimism. Benjamin served as an officer with the Royal Flying Corp, was shot down over Germany in August 1918, and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of war. Schmid and Raiskin miss this strain, but find the music’s romantic core in heart-felt performances. If you have fond memories of Heifetz and Primrose but would like to hear the Romantic Fantasy in a fine, modern recording or if you are a fan of Gurney, Howells, Patrick Hadley, or the other lesser-known British composers, the Benjamin alone is good reason to buy the recording.

One of Arthur Benjamin’s piano students at the Royal College of Music was Benjamin Britten. His unfinished “Double Concerto” was composed while at the school in 1932 when the composer was 19 years old. It waited till 1997 for its premiere, which came about thanks to Colin Matthews, who prepared the score and has given us some very welcome and idiomatic early Britten. Like the Benjamin, it is an eclectic work with virtuoso dance rhythms in which bravura coexists along with the elegant nostalgia to be found in later works, such as the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings . That mood ultimately prevails in an exquisite epigraph, featuring the French horn. There is a fine recording, played by Gidon Kremer and Yuri Bashmet, with more panache than Schmid and Raiskin can muster. Kent Nagano with the Halle Orchestra, accompanying Kremer and Bashmet, finds more character in the music and contrasts its moods more effectively than Lior Shambadal on a well-programmed all-Britten disc (Erato).

The Bruch “Double Concerto” is perhaps better known in its version for Clarinet and Viola. It is difficult to believe that it was composed two years before the premiere of Stravinsky’s Sacre but the composer is true to his romantic self in this lovely, Brahmsian work. There are those who prefer the contrast in color the clarinet brings in the original version, but in the context of this recording, the violin and viola are particularly satisfying as the artists seem most at home in this central European piece and bring real sensitivity and style to a work that deserves to be heard more often—as do the Britten and Benjamin.

FANFARE: Michael Fine
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Works on This Recording

Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola and Orchestra by Arthur Benjamin
Performer:  Benjamin Schmid (Violin), Daniel Raiskin (Viola)
Conductor:  Lior Shambadal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Venue:  Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Notes: Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany (09/24/2001 - 09/26/2001) 
Concerto for Violin and Viola by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Benjamin Schmid (Violin), Daniel Raiskin (Viola)
Conductor:  Lior Shambadal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1931 
Venue:  Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany (09/24/2001 - 09/26/2001) 
Concerto for Clarinet and Viola in E minor, Op. 88 by Max Bruch
Performer:  Daniel Raiskin (Viola), Benjamin Schmid (Violin)
Conductor:  Lior Shambadal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; Germany 
Venue:  Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 17 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany (09/24/2001 - 09/26/2001) 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Fascinating Mix of Styles August 8, 2014 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "The 3 works on this excellent Arte Nova disk are pieces for violin, viola, and orchestra. Arthur Benjamin's Romantic Fantasy, which opens the program, could easily have been titled a double concerto like the other two works, since it essentially the same thing. In both the Benjamin and Britten works, the juxtaposition of the violin and viola occasionally seemed to produce (at least to my ears) a somewhat dissonant effect, especially when the two instruments were overlaid on each other. I usually find this type of sound effect a bit disconcerting, but here the effect seemed to be wholly appropriate, and fully in accordance with the composers' intentions. The Britten concerto is a remarkable piece for its constantly shifting colors and some really fancy 'fiddling', especially in the dynamic final movement. In contrast to the more astringent sound of the Benjamin and Britten pieces, the Bruch concerto is characterized by its smooth, almost lush sound, with the solo parts seamlessly supporting each other, and the orchestra doing the same thing. I suppose one could attribute the difference in sound worlds found here to several possible factors, for example the post-WW1 20th century experience on the two composers from the British Isles, and the late 19th century Romanticism of Max Bruch's Central European background. Whatever the case, the contrast in compositional modes makes for a fine listening experience. The Berlin Symphony Orchestra and soloists Benjamin Schmid (violin) and Daniel Raiskin (viola) give wonderful performances of these lesser known works. If you would like a disk that will challenge you at first (Benjamin and Britten), and then relax and reassure you (Bruch), then I think you'll find this Arte Nova recording quite a find. Recommended." Report Abuse
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