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Discussion: Bartok: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 - Steinbacher, Janowski

Posts: 20
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Post by Claude November 4, 2010 (11 of 20)
A rating of 7/10 is still positive. The reviewer writes that it's not among his favourite interpretions in the entire discography, but that the disc should not be ignored because there are few recent or SACD recordings of these works..

Post by Windsurfer November 4, 2010 (12 of 20)
Claude said:

I listened to the second concerto yesterday, and I rather agree with the lukewarm reviews. Compared to the few other versions I have heard (Menuhin, Kyung-Wha Chung, ...), the Steinbacher/Janowski interpretation is a bit too smooth and lustrous and missing the roughness in Bartok's sound.

Contrary opinions abound! I think "missing the roughness" in Bartok's sound, is just what I needed to fully appreciate the second concerto. In fact, one is compelled to wonder if this "roughness" was intended by Bartok, or if he just really needed a violinist of the sensibility and technical capability of an Arabella Steinbacher, someone as Gavin Dixon reports:

"brings her innate musicality to bear on these problems, and the results are both distinctive and convincing. Her Bartók is at the more cosmopolitan end of the spectrum,

and * she's * not * one * to * launch * into * folk fiddling episodes * on * a * whim. (My emphasis added - oh but for italics on this site!)

The sophistication of her playing is at least in part a result of her tone, which is rich and throaty and acts as a magnet to the ear. The beauty and inner complexity of her sound is endlessly fascinating."

That was my experience on first listen, on second listen, on third listen and each and every time there after - specifically:

"The beauty and inner complexity of her sound is endlessly fascinating."

To boot, beyond that glorious fiddle playing, hers is basically a muscular and passionate interpretation.

Not to accuse YOU of this Claude, but so many reviewers address a new artist with suspicion and cannot get past anything that is not a parroting of some older more famous performance. Thus blinded, they fail to perceive the spectacularly glowing jewel right in front of them.

Post by pelley November 17, 2010 (13 of 20)
The current issue of Gramophone seems to concur with those (and myself) who enjoy this recording:

The November print version contain even more praise with the headlines "Steinbacher offers unforgettable Bartok" and "Beauty in Detail."


Post by dcramer November 17, 2010 (14 of 20)
Yes, the praise is justly deserved; I've been recommending this disc to friends for a while now. Along with the recent discovery of the Lara St. John Four Seasons, recordings of compositions I previously considered either boring war horses (the Vivaldi) or semi-interesting intellectual exercises are now frequently enjoyed favorites.

Post by Beagle November 17, 2010 (15 of 20)
Windsurfer said: ..."she's not one to launch into folk fiddling episodes on a whim".
Quite right, Bruce. Folk fiddling is more appropriate in the older Solo form than in the cultured Concerto form, and therefore should not be expected here. However, I think it is far too early to be speaking of a "recording of the century" in a 10 year-old millennium. Neither you nor I will live long enough to express that opinion. ;-)

PS: try ALL CAPS for emphases.

Post by Windsurfer November 17, 2010 (16 of 20)
Beagle said:

I think it is far too early to be speaking of a "recording of the century" in a 10 year-old millennium. Neither you nor I will live long enough to express that opinion. ;-)

That was a little hyper on my part wasn't it? But I truly love this recording!

Post by Claude November 18, 2010 (17 of 20)
Anyway, "Recording of the century" is a trademark owned by EMI, so it won't be a SACD ;-)

Post by Windsurfer December 20, 2010 (18 of 20)
In his complimentary review, Krisjan says:

"Yes, the soloist is a bit forward in the mix compared to real life"

One's judgment on a matter like this will depend on one's prior experiences. Typically a recording will try to represent the sound one would hear in a "prime seat" usually a center seat that is 10 to 12 rows from the stage.

In 2009 I was fortunate to hear Steinbacher play the Tchaikovsky at SPAC, the Philadelphia Orchestra's summer home. My observation at the time confirmed the impression made earlier that year at Middlebury College in Vermont where I heard her give a really impressive recital. That impression was: This one has a really BIG sound! But the Middlebury venue is a relatively small (370 seat) hall.

SPAC on the other hand is a large semi-open air arrangement similar to Tanglewood. I think Tanglewood has the superior acoustics if only "just". At SPAC, we were centrally seated in row "L" and her sound was rich, full and beautiful. It lacked nothing compared to most violin recordings, which I admit ARE usually set up to give undue prominence to the artist.

Last summer we heard Steinbacher at Tanglewood playing the Beethoven. Again we were seated 12 rows from the stage and I was surprised (even with my now pretty high expectations) at how BIG her sound was.

I have heard many fine violinists in concert and I am surprised at the range of the differences between them regarding sheer volume of sound. Vadim Repin has an unusually lovely sound but compared to Steinbacher, Fischer, or Znaider, that sound is rather small. At Tanglewood, seated 12 rows from the stage, Steinbacher delighted and amazed me with the quality and power of her sound.

I seriously doubt Polyhymnia had to play with the level controls at all to achieve what we hear on this magnificent recording.

Post by Kal Rubinson December 20, 2010 (19 of 20)
Claude said:

Anyway, "Recording of the century" is a trademark owned by EMI, so it won't be a SACD ;-)

How about "Recording of this century?"


Post by Windsurfer January 31, 2011 (20 of 20)
last evening, we returned from Boston where we heard Ms Steinbacher play the Mozart 4th. I was a little bummed that they had her doing Mozart instead of something "meatier", like Shostakovitch, Berg, Bartok - until I heard what she did with this concerto.

After intermission when I returned to my seat, my seat mate, Janet, on the left asked me if I liked the performance, she had heard me complaining last month about BSO wasting fine talent on Mozart's concerto. Well I had to admit that I enjoyed the performance immensely.

I asked Janet how she and her husband liked the performance and she said they were delighted by it. Janet then remarked: ... and she is really QUITE beautiful!

I think that made me laugh. I said: What you perceive is greater than what you see. Admittedly Arabella is very pretty but you know, what makes her truly beautiful is very much in her demeanor. She carries herself with an innate elegance, like a princess yet, her demeanor is dominated by a very notable graciousness and there is a good dose of genuine humility and a freely yielded generosity of spirit. She is a beautiful person and as she ages, that beauty will be carried with her for the rest of her life.

This very notable beauty of spirit, this elegance, this generosity, this innate kindness also finds its way into her music making.

THAT is what, beyond her considerable technical competence, makes her very soulful, beautiful Bartok 2nd concerto recording so great! All this of course applies to the reading of the 1st. concerto as well.

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