Barber: Violin Concerto; Capricorn Concerto; Cello Concerto
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Capricorn Concerto; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Kyoko Takezawa (violin), Steven Isserlis (cello), Jacob Berg (flute), Peter Bowman (oboe), Susan Slaughter (trumpet); St Louis SO/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68283 2 DDD
Let it be said straight away: the performances on this disc are superb. In the Violin Concerto, Kyoko Takezawa is a passionate soloist, with a large tone, lots of vibrato (but not too much), care for timbral variety and an infectious spontaneity. Steven Isserlis finds an even bigger wealth of colours and shading in the more ambiguous tones of the Cello Concerto. And throughout, the playing of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin is alert to every nuance of Barber’s orchestration.
Two essentially slow, lyrical movements followed by the easy thrills of a throwaway scherzo finale hardly suggest something deeply convincing. But that’s exactly what Barber’s Violin Concerto seems here. The Capricorn Concerto sounds too much like an attempt to outdo Stravinsky at his own game. The real surprise for me, however, was the Cello Concerto. Perhaps less cocksure when he wrote the work than in the immediate wake of his early successes, its composer was also affected by the sorrows and frustrations of the Second World War. The effortless lyricism which is Barber’s trademark is now tellingly tempered by a haunting uncertainty and occasional irony. Keith Potter