ALBUM TITLE: Pina Napolitano
WORKS: Bartók Piano Concerto No. 3 Krenek Symphonic Elegy Schoenberg Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene
PERFORMER: Pina Napolitano (piano); Liepa¯ja Symphony Orchestra/Atvars Lakstigala
CATALOGUE NO: ODRCD 339
The linking theme here is the ache of exile. By the time the Second World War was really underway in 1940, Schoenberg, Bartók and Ernst Krenek had all taken refuge in the United States. Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto (1942) reflects the anxieties of the early years of the war, Bartók’s (1945) more his own sense of mortality at its conclusion, while Krenek’s Elegy (1946) laments the death of Anton Webern, one of the war’s last casualties. But all three works heave with nostalgia for the Central European culture their composers had lost.
True, Schoenberg’s Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene dates from a decade earlier, but its scenario of mounting fear leading to catastrophe could be heard as prophetic of the horrors of 1939-45. It also gets the best performance on this new Odradek release – its nervy gestures and tricky-to-balance textures for once subsumed into a cumulative sweep in this fine reading by the Latvian Liepāja Symphony Orchestra under conductor Atvars Lakstigala. They make a touching case, too, for Krenek’s episodic 12-tone Elegy, particularly in the broken phrasing of its final pages.
The readings of the two concertos are less convincing, alas: partly because of rather staid tempos, particularly in the opening movement of Bartók’s Third; partly because of the dullish recorded timbre of the solo piano; and partly because, though highly proficient, the young Italian pianist Pina Napolitano fails quite to find the Viennese waltz-like lilt for the opening of the Schoenberg or the Hungarian earthiness for the finale of the Bartók that brings such music to life.