Bela Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2 – Itzhak Perlman, London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn (2015) [Qobuz 24-96]

Bela Bartok – Violin Concerto No. 2 – Itzhak Perlman, London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:50 minutes | 758 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital booklet | © Parlophone Records/Warner Classics
Recorded: Kingsway Hall, London, 10 October 1973

Unlike some of his older colleagues, such as Isaac Stern or Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman has recorded very little music by Béla Bartók — the Violin Sonatas Nos.1 and 2, the Sonata for solo violin, the two Rhapsodies, the First Violin Concerto and the six Romanian Folk Dances are all notable by their absence from his discography, making this recording of the Second Violin Concerto all the more precious. Several of his eminent predecessors had already recorded this masterpiece, chief among them Yehudi Menuhin (in 1946 and 1953), Ivry Gitlis (1954) and Isaac Stern (1958). The young Perlman’s vision of the work, as conducted by André Previn, proved to be a landmark to match those that had gone before.

For some time, this was believed to be Bartók’s only violin concerto, until another, much earlier work was discovered in 1960, at which point this became known as No.2. Commissioned in 1937 by the composer’s “dear friend” Zoltán Székely (1903–2001), who that same year was to become leader of the celebrated Hungarian Quartet, it went through what was for Bartók an unusually long (sixteen-month) gestation period. He also made various revisions to the original version, notably to the finale, at the request of his soloist, who wanted the work “to end like a concerto and not like a symphony”. Although the composer had originally envisaged a single-movement work in the form of a theme and variations, he eventually acceded to Székely’s request for a conventional three-movement concerto, although he did retain the theme-and-variations idea in the central Andante tranquillo. The premiere — of which a radio broadcast recording survives — was not given until 23 March 1939, in Amsterdam, by its dedicatee and the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg. Bartók himself, fiercely opposed to the Nazi regime and having already decided to leave Europe, was unable to attend the premiere, and only finally heard his work performed in New York in October 1943, on which occasion the soloist was the Russian émigré Tossy Spivakovsky (1906–98).

Throughout his long recording career, Perlman has never revisited this concerto, and has only set down one other work by Bartók — the complete set of 44 Duos, in partnership with his friend Pinchas Zukerman (see volume 20). –Jean-Michel Molkhou

Tracklist:
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Violin Concerto No.2, BB 117
1 I Allegro non troppo 16.04
2 II Andante tranquillo 9.47
3 III Allegro molto 12.00

Personnel:
Itzhak Perlman, violin
London Symphony Orchestra
André Previn, conductor

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