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Barber: Piano Concerto, Die Natali / Alsop, Prutsman


Release Date: 10/22/2002 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559133   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Samuel Barber
Performer:  Stephen Prutsman
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here at last we have a recording of Barber's marvelous Piano Concerto to rival (if not surpass) the classic Szell/Browning recording for CBS (Sony), a performance which that company inexplicably has managed to reissue everywhere in the world except in the one place that it should: the U.S. While Szell and his Clevelanders remain unbeatable in terms of rhythmic precision and disciplined ensemble, Marin Alsop and her Scottish players offer ample excitement and drive, while pianist Stephen Prutsman certainly compares favorably to John Browning's pioneering effort (his later, more sedate remake for RCA doesn't factor into this particular equation at all).


Prutsman puts steel into the music where required (the opening
Read more cadenza and much of the finale), but he offers a slow movement of great delicacy and tenderness too. He knows when to back off and let the orchestra have the spotlight, and together with Alsop manages a genuine dialog in such passages as the finale's second calm episode (music that's pure Prokofiev in its ironic wit). It's interesting how closely this finale resembles that of Ginastera's First Piano Concerto, composed at the same time, and both seem to be taking the finale of Bartók's Second Piano Concerto as a model. In any case, aside from Szell/Browning, there is no finer performance of this work available, and it's very well recorded to boot.


As for the couplings, the catchy Commando March plays itself, and Die Natali, a marvelously inventive fantasia on Christmas carols, receives a lovely performance. Why this charming piece isn't hauled out every December and played to death, as it surely deserves to be, is a genuine mystery. Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance features an excellent "meditation", brooding but not too slow, that yields to a vividly detailed but somewhat underpowered "dance of vengeance", just fractionally under tempo and lacking the ultimate hysterical frenzy (as in Munch/Boston) at the climaxes. However, given the overall excellence of the other items on offer, this isn't a major liability, and for the Piano Concerto alone this disc will be an essential acquisition for anyone who cares about Barber's music.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 38 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Stephen Prutsman (Piano)
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 27 Minutes 5 Secs. 
2.
Die natali, Op. 37 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/18/2001 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 17 Minutes 0 Secs. 
3.
Commando March by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/12/2000 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4.
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, Op. 23a by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 12 Minutes 41 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto, Op. 38: I. Allegro appassionato
Piano Concerto, Op. 38: II. Canzone: Moderato
Piano Concerto, Op. 38: III. Allegro molto
Die natali, Op. 37
Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, Op. 23a
Commando March

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Browning is better January 28, 2014 By Frank Hudson (Bowie, MD) See All My Reviews "As with the other entries in the Naxos semi-complete Barber series, there are better (sometimes much better) versions available elsewhere. If you're looking just to hear these pieces in a quick once-over fashion, then these budget-line readings will do, I guess. But the engineering is variable (often muddy) and orchestral playing ditto. If you want to hear a truly great performance of the Piano Concerto, seek out the re-issue of John Browning's first version of it with Szell/Cleveland. The chief virtue of this release is its inclusion of Barber's unique xmas-themed fantasia Die Natali and the first modern professional recording of the orchestral version of his Commando March (originally for band) - not as good as many of the fine wind ensemble versions released over the years, but at least we can get an idea what SB did in scoring it for what were, to him, "conventional forces."" Report Abuse
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