Bartók: Viola Concerto; Dvořák: Cello Concerto; Shor: Seascapes; The Well Tempered Chanson; Lullaby for Mark; Natalie’s Waltz; Walton: Viola Concerto
David Aaron Carpenter (viola); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kazushi Ono, Vladimir Jurowski, David Parry
Warner 9029569769 154:00 mins (2 discs)
Violists tend either towards the woody, chesty tenor register in the manner of Lionel Tertis, or the alto, violinistic brilliance of William Primrose. David Aaron Carpenter is very much a Primrose man, which is just as well considering the heroic projection required for the Dvořák. Even with the cello original ringing in one’s ears, such is the charismatic intensity of Carpenter’s playing that one quickly adjusts and accepts this gripping performance on its own terms.
The Bartók Concerto was commissioned by Primrose, whose recordings with Tibor Serly (who reconstructed the concerto from Bartók’s sketches) and Otto Klemperer are essential listening. It is a sign of Carpenter’s violinistic precision and chutzpah that he need fear nothing by comparison, blowing clean out of the water any notion of the viola lacking its own highly distinctive voice. Indeed, when listening to Carpenter’s masterly performance of the Walton Concerto (written for Tertis, but premiered by Hindemith), one is continually struck by the purity of his upper register, which soars aloft with ear-tweaking clarity and without the slightest hint of strain. When the notes start flying, particularly in the viola’s lower register, absolute tonal focus is challenging to maintain, yet Carpenter retains clarity at all levels.
Alexey Shor’s characterful and colourful music makes the perfect companion, whether in the multi-faceted generics of the Well Tempered Chanson (including an ‘Odessa Walk’ and ‘Chicken Tarantella’) or his four highly atmospheric Seascapes (a world-premiere recording). Carpenter’s exemplary, heartfelt interpretations resonate long in the memory after the music has stopped.