Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Two worthwhile violin concertos

From March 20, 2015:


The young Castelnuovo-Tedesco begins his Concerto Italiano for Violin and Orchestra with not one but two splendid themes, but the musical material in the first movement outstays its welcome before the end of its 15-1/2 minutes. This reminded me of Clover Adams’ witty but not at all unkind reference to Henry James, who, she said, chewed more than he had bitten off. Tightening up that first movement would bring better balance to the concerto, which continues with a slight but lovely, schmaltzy Arioso, and ends with an “impetuous” swirl. This is youthful music, fresh and frothy, and it is well presented, in a world premiere recording, by violinist Tianwa Yang, the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden Baden ind Freiburg, and conductor Pieter-Jelle de Boer.

The second Violin Concerto, written seven years later, is more technically assured, but drier and more erudite. It has a serious program, with its subtitle ‘The Prophets’ and its use of traditional Jewish melodies. It is more reticent than the first concerto, and more thoughtful, even pensive.

Tully Potter says in his excellent liner notes “a slight aura of the cinema hangs about” the second concerto, and coincidentally I was reminded of Erich Korngold’s soundtrack-inspired Violin Concerto, written decades after these two works. Neither of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco violin concertos is at level of Korngold’s, but both deserve to be played much more often than they have in the past. They’ve been given the best possible advocacy by Tianwa Yang and everyone involved in this excellent release.

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