BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2. Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. Posth
Arabella Steinbacher, violin; S
uisse Romande Orch/Marek Janowski, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 350 TT: 61:12

BACH: Concerto for Harpsichord, Strings and Continuo No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052. Concerto for Flute, Violin, Harpsichord and Strings in A minor, BWV 1044. VIVALDI: Concerto for Violin and Strings in D, Op. 7/11, RV 208a. Concerto for Violin and Strings in D, Op. 7/12, RV 214.
Maria Teresa Garati, harpsichord; Severino Gazzelloni, flute; Salvatore Accardo, violin; I Musici
PENTATONE SACD 5186 149 TT: 65:58

D'ALMEIDA: Septet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Piano and Xylophone. SANTOS: String Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 27. PEIXINHO: Five Short Piano Pieces. SOUSA: Woodwind Quintet. MOTTA: String Quartet No. 2 in G.
Soloists of the Berlin German Opera/Eosander Quartet
NCA 60167 TT: 75:53

The young German violinist Arabella Steinbacher's second Pentatone disk is this coupling of Bartók's two violin concertos. The first was composed in 1907/08 when the composer was in love with one of his students, Stefi Geyer who, unfortunately for Bartók, had no interest whatever in him, but she kept the score. Only upon her death in 1956 was the score released and it didn't have its premiere until 1958. Soon it was championed by Isaac Stern who recorded it with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Concerto No. 2 is much more familiar and recorded by many famous violinists although, oddly, Jascha Heifetz never played it. The world premiere of this concerto was given in Amsterdam March 23, 1939 played by Zoltán Székely to whom it is dedicated, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by Willem Mengelberg recorded by the Dutch radio, a performance mentioned on this site (REVIEW). Steinbacher's impeccable playing captures the Hungarian flavor of both concertos with vivid accompaniment from Janowski and the Swiss orchestra. Sonic quality is exemplary. The only debit is an unflattering and rather comic photo of Steinbacher on the inner back cover of the CD—or is she telling us she has a sense of humor?

Pentatone fortunately has not yet exhausted their supply of classic recordings to issue for the first time in their original quad format. This new disk offers recordings made in Switzerland in July 1973 (Bach) and July 1975 (Vivaldi), performed by I Musici with sterling soloists: Maria Teresa Garatti, harpsichord, Severino Gazzelloni, flute, and Salvatore Accardo, violin. These splendid performances sound better than ever in their original multi-channel format, with the rich acoustics of the recording venues captured with utmost realism.

Here's another fine release in the NCA series featuring soloists of the Berlin German Opera Orchestra, as well as the Eosander Quartet. Previous issues have included Spain (REVIEW), the Tokyo-Berlin Bassoon Octet (REVIEW), Russia (REVIEW), and Brazil (REVIEW). António Victorino d'Almeida (b. 1940) is represented by a septet unmemorable except that it includes the xylophone. Jorge Peixinno (1940-1995) who worked with Boulez and Stockhausen is represented by five very brief piano pieces. Filipe de Sousa (b. 1927), although a pioneer as a conductor giving premieres of works by Bartók, Berg and Schoenberg, here is represented by an early work (1957), a brief rather unsubstantial wind quintet. José Vianna da Motta (1868-1948), a major figure on the music scene at the turn of the Century, was as a superb pianist (he studied with Liszt in Weimar). His brief String Quartet No. 2. with no trace whatever of Portuguese influence,.could have been written by any Viennese composer of the time The gem of this collection is the String Quartet No. 2 by Joly Braga Santos (1924-1988), whose important symphonic music has only during the past decade (thanks to Naxos/Marco Polo) come to the attention of collectors. This Quartet is generally somber in the first two movements, the third ending with a brilliant vivace. But those first two movements are emotionally intense, and the entire quartet deserves a hearing. Excellent sound as always in this series, but it is unfortunate that these are premium-price SACDs.

R.E.B. (September 2010)