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Barber And Walton Violin Concertos; Bloch: Baal Shem

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 17 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: London
  • ASIN: B0000042FS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #90,156 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Violin Concerto: I. Allegro
2. Violin Concerto: II. Andante
3. Violin Concerto: III. Presto in moto perpetuo
4. Baal shem: I. Vidui (Contrition)
5. Baal shem: II. Nigun (Improvisation)
6. Baal shem: III. Simchas Torah (Rejoicing)
7. Violin Concerto: I. Andante tranquillo
8. Violin Concerto: II. Presto capriccioso alla napolitana
9. Violin Concerto: III. Vivace

Product Description

Here are two of the most sumptuously romantic violin concertos written this century, given performances which effortlessly combine dashing virtuosity with silken beauty. In the Barber, there's tough competition from the likes of Isaac Stern (Sony) and Kyoko Takezawa (RCA); Bell is a fraction less passionately red-blooded than either, but his personable warmth is infectious, and Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are with him all the way. As for the Walton, it's impossible to overlook either of the Jascha Heifetz's recordings (from 1941 on Biddulph, and the 1950 RCA version with Walton conducting), but Bell and Zinman easily hold their own amongst modern rivals, and their fill-up is an imaginative one, too - Ernest Bloch's exotic 1923 triptych Baal Shem (originally written for violin and piano, but heard here in the composer's orchestral revision from 1939). Decca's sound is just about perfect, and this is a CD absolutely not to be missed. --Andrew Achenbach

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
...extremely angry with London/Decca engineers for making his 1713 Strad ("Gibson ex Huberman") sound like it was made of plastic. The recorded sound of his instrument is about 2 steps beyond an Edison cylinder. The performance sounds like he was put into an isolation booth with a lapel mic.
Although condsidering the total lack of resonance and depth from the G string, one could assume the engineers used two mics and combined the sound out-of-phase to render a dead-center mono signal with the lower tones scattered into oblivion. There is no evidence at any moment that he is in the same room with the orchestra. There are two distinct and radically different acoustical environments mixed together. Mixed, not blended.
Overall, the recording is exceedingly harsh with red-hot frequencies between 2k and 9K. The Barber is one of the warmest pieces in the repertoire and here it sounds cold and cruel. The recording of the orchestra doesn't fare much better with the initial Timp forte overloading the system and distorting. The sound doesn't improve until the last movement of the Walton when, for the first time, there is some slight hall resonance associated with the violin.
What the heck were these guys thinking?
Bell is noted for the poetic musicality of his performances; an outstanding American artist. His artistry is not well served here. This recording is a despicable mess.
If you can hear through the technical slop, then enjoy Bell's artistry, but my ear was stopped cold. Very cold.
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Format: Audio CD
A lot of people seem to be focussed on comparing Joshua Bell to Hilary Hahn because of their contemporaneous recordings of the Barber. I don't know why we feel that one has to "win" this debate- they are both extraordinary violinists. I've already commented on this at length in my review of Hilary's CD. Short version- both are wonderful, just different flavours, but I give an edge to Hilary for her superb rendition of the last movement. The Barber aside, we also have the Bloch and Walton on this CD. The Bloch is steeped in Hebrew angst and joy and Joshua gives it his all in an passionate tour de force performance. No one could ever accuse him of being a sterile player.
The Walton is the real jewel of this CD for me. This little played concerto was written for Heifetz and has suffered from undeserved neglect ever since as it is not really the type of flashy concerto that many virtuosi love to dazzle their audiences with. It is however a lush and beautiful lyric masterpiece and Joshua brings out the concerto's soul in exemplary fashion. It is not without it flashy passages either and he negotiates their difficulties with apparent ease. But it is the love song like quality of the first and third movements which stand out for me and Joshua's lyric gifts are heard to great advantage here as they are throughout this excellent CD
Highly recommended..
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Format: Audio CD
In response to the multitude of reviews on this website promoting Hillary Hahn's recording of the Barber Violin Concerto over Joshua Bell's performance, I'd like to offer a contrasting review.
I must admit I have only listened repeatedly to the Barber on both of the aforementioned discs (having only heard the rest of the CDs maybe once). Although some reviewers have said they listened to the Bell recording until they bought Hahn's CD, I would propose you go back and listen to Joshua Bell. Whereas Hillary Hahn does a splendid job, technically perfect and quite musical, her interpretation is very cut-and-dry and not very adventurous. Simply put, Joshua Bell's performance is more personal. Not to suggest his rendition isn't technically and otherwise emaculate, but he offers something more. There are aspects of Bell's performance that are probably not written on Barber's music (you can tell because they don't exist on Hahn's recording). Things like rubato and slides are very human and don't come through clearly enough in Hillary Hahn's relatively machine-like rendition. In contrast, Bell's playing is far more like singing than hacking away at a violin. Were Barber alive today, he'd probably want to listen to Joshua Bell.
In short, if you want a comparatively bland introduction to Barber's Violin Concerto, go buy Hillary Hahn. If you're looking for something that will move you, you must buy Joshua Bell every time.
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By A Customer on July 9 2000
Format: Audio CD
Once again we must be thankful for David Zinman devotion to expand the repertoire of today's orchestra, be it with newly commissioned works, or by giving a new shine to "recent" masterpieces. If Barber and Walton violin concerto cannot be considered anymore newcomers to the repertoire, they are still a rarity. This recording should put an end to that. Here we have superb, sumptuous play by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a romantic and lovingly shaped solo violin by Joshua Bell, and clear direction by Zinman. This enough should be an incentive to own it. But the main merit of this recording is that Zinman makes these concertos accessible, connected to the orchestral tradition and yet relevant to our modern ears. With this recording, the Baltimore Symphony shows us that indeed the XX century will give our incipient XXI a lot more of classics than one might have expected a couple of decades ago: they just need to be understood, played well, and listened to with care. There is more to Barber than just an adagio.
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