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Stravinsky, Bartok & Martinu: Works For Violin & Orchestra / Frank Peter Zimmermann

Stravinsky, Bartok & Martinu: Works For Violin & Orchestra / Frank Peter Zimmermann

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Stravinsky, Bartok and Martinu were established international figures when they wrote these works for violin, travelling across Europe as well as the United States. With the onset of World War Two, all three composers would ultimately emigrate because of their rejection of fascism. In an age of political upheaval and cultural displacement, each of them found an individual approach to reinventing the language of tonal music, laying down roots in the west without abandoning their Eastern European identities. While the Russian-born Stravinsky was experimenting with possibilities of modern violin technique in his concerto, Martinu took these efforts a step further in his Suite concertante by blending the sounds of his native Bohemia with the colours of French neo-classicism. In the Rhapsodies, Bartok turned to the folk music of Hungary and Romania.

Frank Peter Zimmermann, joined here by the Bamberger Symphoniker and its conductor Jakub Hrůša, continues his exploration of the great violin works of the 20th century after his acclaimed recordings of works by Hindemith (BIS-2024), Shostakovich (BIS-2247) as well as Martinu and Bartok (BIS-2457), a recording unanimously acclaimed by the critics, gaining a Diapason d’or and named ‘Concerto Choice’ by BBC Music Magazine, ‘Editor’s Choice’ by Gramophone and one of Classica’s ‘Chocs de l’annee’.


With Jakub Hrůša and his super-attentive Bamberg orchestra, Frank Peter Zimmermann trumps the self-confident projection of his younger self. Stravinsky’s framing movements seem defter now, particularly the opening Toccata with its chortling bassoons.

-- Gramophone

Their interpretation of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto becomes an equally sarcastic and seriously elaborated confrontation. Even in the opening Toccata, taken from the baroque form, the notes buzz and chirp like a summer meadow full of birds and insects. In general, the performers give the work a floating lightness that dispels everything earthly. At no point do you notice the technical demands.

In the two arias, too, the participants maintain the intensity and musical pressure. The concluding Capriccio then gives Zimmermann another opportunity to let his violinistic fireworks leap, jump, and shine in an artfully choreographed manner. He knows he is in the best of company with his accompanists, as they also carry the sarcastic aspects of the score as well as demonstrating the ambiguity with pointed articulation.

Bartok’s rhapsodies are constructed in two parts, like a Csárdás, which has a slow and a fast part. Bartok has retained much of the character of the music here, which he borrowed from folk melodies. The performers know how to show this raw side of the music of the people with verve and well-dosed energy.

The first version of the Suite concertante already had a difficult genesis, as Martinů was, to put it casually, lovesick during its composition. The elegiac music of the meditation therefore has a special depth of expression, which Zimmermann and his accompanists shape with deep feeling.

Martinů created the fundamentally new second version of the suite primarily at the request of the soloist Samuel Dushkin. The Aria from this version links up with Stravinsky’s concerto, as does the same original soloist. Many of the elements that characterize Martinů’s works – references to Czech folk music, vitality, changing rhythmic patterns and a mostly traditional harmony that does not exclude harsh dissonances – can also be found in the suite.

Zimmermann also demonstrates his violinistic skills in the suite, which are characterized by elegance and mastery of the instrument, in an engaging and memorable, yet spontaneous manner, so that the suite shines with fresh brilliance and brings Martinů to the trapeze. Hruša and the Bambergers are still to be found at his side and are audibly at ease with the music of their not only geographical neighborhood.

-- Pizzicato

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: BIS
    • UPC/Barcode: 7318599926575
    • Item Number: BIS-2657