BLOCH: Symphony in E flat. Two symphonic interludes from Macbeth.
In Memoriam. Three Jewish Poems.
ROZSA: Duo for Violin and Piano, Op. 7. Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.
40. Sinfona Concertante for Violin and Cello, Op. 29
WOLF-FERRARI: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 96. Orchestral music from the
operas Il Campiello, Le Donne Curiose, L'Amore medico, and I Quatre Rusteghi.
This welcome Naxos disk contains for the most part relatively unknown orchestral works of Ernest Bloch (1880-1959). Known best for his powerful Schelomo for cello and orchestra, America for chorus and orchestra, and several concertos, Bloch composed about thirty purely orchestral works, and this Naxos reissue offers two orchestral interludes from the opera Macbeth (1909), Jewish Poems for Orchestra (1913), In Memoriam (1952), and Symphony No. 2 (1955). The Macbeth excerpts have very much of a "Russian" or film score sound . In Memoriam is an appropriately somber funeral march, and the Poems are typical writing of the composer. It is amazing that the Symphony isn't better known—it is engrossing in every way, far more interesting than the composer's earlier Symphony in C-sharp minor composed in 1900, reissued on Naxos, also played by the Royal Philharmonic under Dalia Atlas, who is President of the Ernest Bloch Society and champions the composer's music. Both of these disks were recorded in 1996 and previously issued on ASV. Performances are exemplary, stereo sound outstanding. A major, and very welcome, reissue!
Equilibrium's new Miklos Rozsa disk refers to the composer's "double life." His scores for Ben-Hur, Spellbound, and The Thief of Baghdad made him famous, but he always retained his association with "concert music." His friends included Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky. Rozsa wrote his violin concerto for Heifetz, who gave the premiere in 1954, and his Cello Concerto was composed for Janos Sarker, who premiered it in 1969. Starker Concertante was composed for Heifetz and Piatigorsky although the latter never participated in a complete performance. There are few recordings of it, so this new one is welcome with its sterling performances and excellent recorded sound. We also have two of the composer's works for violin, again splendidly presented. An intriguing release.
Few concert-goers are familiar with the violin concerto composed in 1943 written for the beautiful young American violinist Guilia Gustabo who gave the premiere January 7, 1944 with the Munich Philharmonic directed by Oswald Kabasta. This is a four-movement concerto of great beauty and imagination with soaring lines for the soloist and a lush orchestral accompaniment. It is remarkable the concerto isn't more popuar; currently only three recordings are available, none is by a "star" soloist. Viennese-born violinist Benjamin Schmid (b. 1968) has to his credit numerous recordings of standard repertory as well as many ventures into modern concertos for the instrument. He plays the Wolf-Ferrari concert with perfect intonation and beautiful tone, with strong support from the fine newly-formed Spanish orchestra. Four orchestral excerpts from the composer's operas are rather skimpy fillers (TT is less than an hour)—and this is a premium-priced release with a luxurious box and profuse program notes. Audi is first-rate. A dubious bonus is a decumentary film about Wolf-Ferrari's association with Guila Bustabo and her dubious Nazi association during the war, with many photographs. The disk is worthy of attention if only for the wonderful concerto.
R.E.B. (October 2014)