Bloch: Concerto symphonique; Concerto grosso No. 1; Scherzo fantasque

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COMPOSERS: Bloch
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Bloch
WORKS: Concerto symphonique; Concerto grosso No. 1; Scherzo fantasque
PERFORMER: Jenny Lin (piano); SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern/Jiπí Stárek
CATALOGUE NO: CD 93.192

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Bloch’s Concerto Symphonique is a work on the grand scale of the Brahms concertos, the technically demanding piano part placed in equal partnership with the orchestra. Premiered in 1949 at the Edinburgh Festival, its acerbic melodic material seems, at least on the surface, to be far removed from the Hebraic intensity of the much better-known Schelomo. Nonetheless, the epic sonorities of the outer movements conjure up a vision of biblical grandeur not dissimilar in character to Miklós Rósza’s film score to Ben Hur. To what extent extra-musical events may have determined the score’s strenuous nature is not clear, though the relentless march-like material that dominates the Finale and the grotesquerie of the middle movement scherzo (Allegro vivace) surely relate to the turmoil of the Second World War. Certainly Jenny Lin and Jiπí Stárek present a no-holds-barred approach to the work which, with its closely-miked recording, seems designed to overwhelm the listener. In contrast Halida Dinova on Chandos finds more light and shade in the music, but the orchestral accompaniment from the St Petersburg State Academic Cappella Symphony Orchestra is nowhere near as incisive. Both CDs partner the Concerto symphonique with the later Scherzo fantasque, but the Hänssler disc is more generous in adding the neo-classical Concerto Grosso No. 1 in a performance that has considerable rhythmic energy, but perhaps lacks a bit of charm in the ‘Pastorale and Rustic Dances’. Erik Levi