by Peter Cates
Bartok: Viola Concerto and Hindemith: Concerto After Old Folksongs for Viola and Small Orchestra; Daniel Benyamini, viola, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Orchestre de Paris; Deutsche Grammophon 2531 249, 12-inch vinyl LP, recorded 1979.
Bartok’s very inspired Viola Concerto, which was completed by Bartok’s friend, Tibor Serly, after the composer’s death from leukemia. While in the throes of the illness, Bartok also wrote his Piano Concerto No. 3 and Concerto for Orchestra, a very inexplicable streak of physical and creative energy.
Hindemith’s tart Concerto, or Schwandreher, takes getting used to but has its own rewards for persevering listeners.
I have had a type of love/hate relationship with Barenboim’s conducting for over 40 years. He could be overly mannered; an awfully aggressive and bombastic interpreter at the piano and on the podium; or very sugary. But, he keeps drawing me back to his vinyl and CDs because, when he is good, he is very, very good. This LP is one of his finest.
He was married to the exceptionally gifted cellist, Jacqueline Du Pre, until her death from multiple schlerosis in 1987. She was the main subject of a popular film several years ago, Hillary and Jackie.
Dvorak: Symphony No. 5; Hussite Overture- Vladimir Ghiaurov conducting the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, Laserlight 14 005, CD, recorded 1991.
Another genuine beauty loaded with melodies and counter-melodies but developed into a symphony that hangs together so well, that Dvorak is given a very exciting performance by a gifted, below-the-radar conductor who is the son of the late operatic bass Nicolai Ghiaurov and the stepson of the famed soprano Mirelle Freni. Plovdiv is a Bulgarian city and possesses an orchestra on the same level as the best in the world. I particularly like how Ghiaurov savors notes and bars in the most enjoyable manner while maintaining tension and pulse that keep things moving.
The Hussite Overture is a very compelling piece of writing of a driven nature and performed quite well.
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