Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Praga
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Josef Suk, Shizuka Ishikawa (violin); Czech PO/Libor Pesek, Zdenek Kosler
CATALOGUE NO: PR 250 099 ADD
The 1985 live recording of Bartók’s ardent First Violin Concerto, a work inspired by the composer’s infatuation for the young violinist Steffi Geyer, finds Josef Suk in outstanding form, squeezing the last ounce of emotional intensity out of the solo part. The performance could have benefited from greater light and shade in the opening movement. Some phrases certainly appear to lack direction – an impression that is compounded by a few moments of insecure ensemble between Suk and the Czech Philharmonic. Nonetheless, there’s a real feeling of spontaneity about the playing, and the ensuing Allegro giocoso bristles with excitement.

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Sadly, these elements are largely absent from the 1980 performance of the much better-known Second Concerto. Tempi are generally on the slow side in the outer movements, and although Zdenek Kosler manages to pinpoint an enormous amount of inner detail from the orchestral part, Shizuka Ishikawa fails to respond with sufficient abandon to the numerous volatile changes of mood in the score. Erik Levi