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Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps, Violin Concerto; Bartok: Divertimento For String Orchestra / Ferenc Fricsay, Et Al

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Medici Masters   Catalog #: 20-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor StravinskyBéla Bartók
Performer:  Arthur Grumiaux
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto. 1 Le sacre du printemps. 2 BARTÓK Divertimento 2 Ferenc Fricsay, cond; Arthur Grumiaux (vn); Cologne West German RSO MEDICI ARTS 20, mono (78:26) Broadcast: Cologne 1951; 1953 2

This well-filled CD offers a brilliant performance of the Concerto whose constricted Read more sound is a drawback, another ( Le sacre ) that proves to be an absorbing reading, if not an “essential” performance, and a treasurable third (the Divertimento) that happens to be in unexpectedly good stereo sound. The recordings were made for radio broadcasts in 1951 (the Concerto) and 1953.

Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto is one of the most satisfying of his neo-Classical works. Its two inner movement Arias I and II offer truly touching emotional content and the energetic outer movements bear the stamp of Stravinsky’s personality at every moment, even as they offer a witty musical commentary on Bach and violin concertos in general. Grumiaux plays thrillingly in this performance. Fricsay, who didn’t record the work commercially, provides an extroverted framework that emphasizes the work’s drive and vigor over its more polite aspects. It’s an exciting performance, but I would recommend several others with far better sound. One is Grumiaux’s 1966 studio recording with Ernest Bour, and another that I have long enjoyed on a Phillips LP has the unusual combination of David Oistrakh and Bernard Haitink with the Lamoureux Orchestra. It seems to be currently unavailable on CD. More recent and with even better sound are Perlman/Ozawa and the excellent Hahn/Marriner.

The recording quality improves in the 1953 Le sacre . Despite a little muddiness and less than ideal focus—the strings in particular come across as distant and a bit thin—there is enough presence and clarity to allow Fricsay’s interpretation to be appreciated. (Instrumental balances and timbre are so important in Le sacre that I find it hard to enjoy historical recordings of the work where these features don’t fully come across.) Playing Le sacre was undoubtedly a big challenge for the Cologne musicians in 1953—they meet it but don’t always sound wholly at ease—and maybe that’s to the music’s benefit. Fricsay’s “Danses des adolescents” sounds non-commital; it’s a bit too slow and the famous accents aren’t quite punchy enough, but after that, the performance gains momentum. Fricsay’s love of musical story telling, as noted in the recent Medici Arts DVD, “Music Transfigured: Remembering Ferenc Fricsay,” is evident in the pacing and details of each of the ballet’s sections. High points along the way being the “Danse de la terre” (cascadingly fast) and the final “Danse sacrale,” which is more driven than in Fricasy’s DGG recording made five months later with his regular orchestra, the RIAS, with better recorded sound.

Bartók’s modestly titled Divertimento is one of the 20th-century’s great works. It manages to be at once playful and serious, accessible yet uncompromising, and lush within the limits of its instrumentation. Fricsay studied with Bartók and brought a special understanding and communicativeness to his performances of his teacher’s music. His Divertimento starts in a more gracious, easy-going manner, but there is plenty of vehemence and variety of atmosphere as the piece progresses, and the finale is suitably frenzied. The Cologne string players rise to the occasion, and the sound is remarkably vivid for 1953, entirely acceptable to modern ears. This performance stands with Fricsay’s DGG studio version as one of the best.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Length: 30 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Remasterer: Stephan Schmidt.
Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943). 
Concerto for Violin in D major by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Arthur Grumiaux (Violin)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; France 
Length: 20 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Remasterer: Wolfgang Ellers. 
Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz 113 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Budapest, Hungary 
Length: 24 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Remasterer: Wolfgang Ellers. 

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