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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1892-1973)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major Op. 19 [20.23]
Belá BARTÓK (1881-1945)

Portrait Op. 5 No. 1 [8.50]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)

Violin Concerto in A minor (1938) [63.57]
Joseph Szigeti (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham (Prokofiev)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Constant Lambert (Bartók)
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Charles Munch (Bloch)
rec. 23 Aug 1935, EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (Prokofiev), 22 June 1946 EMI Abbey Rd Studio No. 1, London (Bartók), 22-23 Mar 1939, Paris (Bloch) ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110973 [63.57]

The Prokofiev alone is sufficient reason to get this CD. It is the version by which I 'learnt' the work - a tape of a BBC broadcast not the HMV Treasury LP. Sitkovetsky and Oistrakh have come closest to capturing its starry, barbaric, fairy tale bardic delights - murderous, seductive and fantastic. Otherwise Szigeti and Beecham reign supreme. For me this work and this version evoke the ‘Baba Yaga’ legend with a goose-pimple fidelity intensifying the eldritch mood of the Liadov tone poem. As a counterpart among the world of illustrators you should think in terms of Kay Nielsen rather than Dulac or Virgil Finlay. Cousins under the skin are Sibelius's Pohjola's Daughter, Balakirev's Thamar, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1. Mark Obert-Thorn makes the recording sound better than the others even though they were recorded four and eleven years later. He has done a wonderful job again.

A light cobweb of surface noise can be heard in the Bartók which was originally written for the Swiss violinist Steffi Geyer for whom Othmar Schoeck, similarly smitten in love, wrote a violin concerto. Chastely sustained, light-as-down playing from Szigeti catches the air of fragile invocation - part Berg concerto and part imploring hymn. Wonderfully restrained and concentrated playing from the Philharmonia. Tully Potter in his typically rewarding notes tells us that this recording was intended to be part of a Bartók Edition that never got off the ground. Lastly comes the Bloch work. This was its world premiere recording and Szigeti had given the first performance. As a piece of music it lacks themes with a strong profile. I grew up on the EMI Menuhin version but he was unable to help the piece and I am afraid that for all its intriguing incidents this source version remains interesting and fitfully impressive. It lacks the 'wow' factor.

One small point. The dates given for Bloch are incorrect. They have been copied from the Bartók entry but unfortunately the preparer of the track listing failed to get to correct them. Small stuff. Correct dates given above.

Rob Barnett



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