Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
Violin Concerto (1938) *
Trois Poemes Juifs **

Rhapsody No. 1 *
* Roman Totenberg (violin) rec 1961
*Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann
** Hartford SO/Fritz Mahler rec 1960

Bloch's violin concerto became the property of Szigeti (who recorded it several times) in much the same way that the Walton was owned by Heifetz. Roman Totenberg recorded the work on 23-25 September 1961. Totenberg's name has not enjoyed much attention. This seems unjust given the obvious musical qualities of this recording. Golschmann and Totenberg draw out the saw-edged violence and dangerous allure of the work. The forty year old recording holds up amazingly well and is not bedevilled by hiss. The 'American Indian' theme is resilient and provides an exotic resource for Bloch's characteristically rhapsodic inclination. The recording suffers through lack of impact in the brass calls at 12.20. The andante is reflective providing welcome relief from the wilder flights of the first. The finale embraces rather than shakes off tragic splendour and for me suggested an affinity with Benjamin Frankel's Violin Concerto. However contrast is to be found in the dance and in a Rozsa-like musing.

Bartok's First Rhapsody (1928) is not at all unyielding. It traces its line from the Magyar Dallok of Liszt. Its two movements whirl and serenade, dip and curtsey graciously in gypsy style. Well worth having.

The Three Jewish Poems (1917) are Dance, Rite and Cortege Funebre. The first is tenderly touched with a Middle Eastern accents brushed with Stravinskian harmonies. Rite stills the waters, pacifies and exalts. All three movements including the Cortege (written in memory of Bloch's father who died in 1917) are notable for their transparency of texture - not quite Ravelian (although Ma Mere l'Oie may well have imbued parts of the Cortege) but certainly less 'cluttered' than we might have come to expect from Bloch. The conductor, Fritz Mahler (1901-73) was a cousin of Gustav Mahler.

This is a very attractive and economical disc made specially so by the Three Poems.

Rob Barnett

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