WORKS: Violin Concerto; Concerto Funebre for Violin and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Thomas Zehetmair (violin); Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/ Heinz Holliger/Thomas Zehetmair
CATALOGUE NO: 2292 46449-2 DDD
Berg’s Violin Concerto may be the most accessible serial composition from the listener’s point of view, but for the performer it’s an interpretative minefield.
It’s one of the most autobiographical pieces ever written – not only is it a requiem for the polio-stricken Manon Gropius, but it also contains cryptic references to one of Berg’s love affairs. It requires a soloist and conductor of subtlety and a rubato of exceptional responsiveness and finesse.
Despite beautiful playing by Zehetmair and some wonderfully transparent orchestral textures from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie under one of contemporary music’s greatest interpreters, Heinz Holliger, the reading is stiff and mannered, rigid in tempo and lacking in Romantic warmth.
They make a convincing case for Janácek’s spurious Violin Concerto (reconstructed by other hands from sketches), but it’s still a rather cold and calculating affair.
Zehetmair himself conducts Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto Funebre, which is a work full of good intentions but uneven in its material. It fails to marry its emotional sincerity to a convincing musical structure. The recording has a wide dynamic range: a pity the same cannot be said of the interpretation.Antony Bye