Arabella Steinbacher, Vladimir Jurowski , Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin
PENTATONE PTC 5186625
Breathtaking virtuosity flows seamlessly with expansive lyrical passages and fiendish passagework in this commanding performance by Arabella Steinbacher of the restless and technically demanding violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith in this new release from PENTATONE, with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.
Britten’s haunting and mesmerising violin concerto is considered one of the century’s finest. The three contrasting movements are replete with grand theatrical gestures, unabashed lyricism, and show-stopping pyrotechnics, and the work closes with an austere passacaglia of other-wordly beauty and power. Following the work’s enthusiastic reception at its premiere in 1940 at Carnegie Hall, Britten declared “So far, it is without question my best piece”.
“Britten and Hindemith completed their concertos at about the same time,” writes Steinbacher, “both are absolutely bursting with emotional turmoil, persisting precariousness, and latent despair.” Steinbacher feels a particular affinity with the Hindemith concerto. “Every artist introduces his own life experiences and personal feelings into his interpretations … with the Hindemith concerto, I have an extremely close, even private connection, as my father knew Hindemith rather well.”
Steinbacher’s previous recordings for PENTATONE have received widespread praise. For her playing in the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, Gramophone commented “one could hardly wish for a more expressive account of both concertos”; for the Korngold and Bruch Violin Concertos, Gramophone noted Steinbacher’s “easy virtuosity with concern to find the right tone and nuance for every phrase”. And BBC Music Magazine said of her last album, Fantasies, Rhapsodies, Daydreams, that it was “recorded in glowing sound that feels astonishingly lifelike … this recital is something of a triumph”.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphonies 2 & 5
Rafael Kubelik, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra
PENTATONE PTC 5186249
Dating from the 1970s, Rafael Kubelik’s incisive and acclaimed reading of Beethoven’s second and fifth symphonies is the latest release in the Remastered Classics series from PENTATONE, performed with panache by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
For a work that was written during an unhappy period of his life, Beethoven’s second symphony nevertheless bristles with infectious humour and vitality. Its striking innovations startled contemporary audiences, from the imposing opening to the capricious scherzo and the witty, energetic finale, but Beethoven’s indebtedness to the classical symphonies of Haydn and Mozart are still quite apparent.
Goethe described Beethoven’s turbulent fifth symphony as “very great, quite wild; it makes one fear that the house might fall down.” Its visceral energy is announced right from the start with its famous opening notes whose hammer blows drive the development of the symphony – from the dark, brooding drama of the opening movement to the spectacular and radiant outburst in the triumphant final movement. It’s one of Beethoven’s most riveting and compelling works and one of his deservedly most popular.
These recordings form part of the acclaimed cycle of Beethoven symphonies Rafael Kubelik made for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1970s, each symphony performed by a different orchestra. Although recorded in multi-channel sound, these winning performances have previously been available only in the conventional two-channel stereo format. Using state of the art technology which avoids the need for re-mixing, PENTATONE’s engineers have remastered the original studio tapes to bring the performances to life as originally intended: in compelling and pristine multi-channel sound.
A further release from this memorable cycle is planned this year in the Remastered Classics series, the masterly Symphonies 6, 7 and 8, due out in November 2017.