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Barber And Walton Violin Concertos; Bloch: Baal Shem
|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|
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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.
Most recent customer reviews
But not just right. The Barber is okay, though the second movement is awfully schmaltzy, and the third movement is indeed mechanical. Read morePublished on July 3 2001
Wind him up and let him go! Joshua Bell, an extraordinary technician, a terrible violinist. I read other reviews about this cd and felt compelled to buy it. Read morePublished on April 22 2001 by Colin Trovato
Joshua Bell is truly an incredible violinist. This cd clearly puts him on the list as one of the "Greats" like Perlman and Menhuhin. Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2001
Joshua Bell has a poise and clarity that is beyond his years, and nowhere is it better demonstrated than in this CD. Read morePublished on July 16 2000
The world is taking too long to discover how amazing Joshua Bell is. He deserves to be a household name the way Perlman and Stern are... er, used to be, anyways. Read morePublished on Oct. 13 1999
Although I have been Bell's fan for years, this recording truly marked him as a marvel of lyricism and technique. Read morePublished on Dec 10 1998 by email@example.com