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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Karol Szymanowski; Benjamin Britten - Violin Concertos (Frank Peter Zimmermann)


Composer: Karol Szymanowski; Benjamin Britten
  • (01-05) Szymanowski - Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35
  • (06-09) Szymanowski - Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61
  • (10-12) Britten - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 15

Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra - Antoni Wit, conductor (1-9)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra - Manfred Honeck, conductor (10-12)

Date: 2008
Label: Sony Classical



Flawless technique and ravishing poise combine to superb effect

Frank Peter Zimmermann’s new coupling of the Szymanowski concertos enters what is fast becoming a highly competitive field. Fortunately, even by the side of such distinguished rivals as the Gramophone Award-winning Thomas Zehetmair and Kaja Danczowska, these urgently expressive, cogent and polished performances more than hold their own. Backed by a notably willing Warsaw Philharmonic under Antoni Wit’s watchful lead, Zimmermann plays with flawless technique, ravishing poise and subtle range of colour. These are readings of strong personality, gutsy temperament and full-throated ardour. The captivating First Concerto is as passionate, sensuous and poetic as one could wish, and Wit conducts with even greater freedom and insight than on his admirable Naxos recording with Ilya Kaler (7/07). Zimmermann displays a comparable empathy for the altogether earthier Second Concerto, comprehensively attuned to the ruddy vigour, yearning lyricism and raw emotion of this exhilarating score (inspired, like Szymanowski’s marvellous ballet Harnasie, by the tangy folk music of the Polish highlands). Biggest climaxes bring a hint of glare; otherwise, the solo balance is most cannily judged.

The Britten is scarcely less impressive, at just under half an hour the swiftest rendering to have come my way since Ida Haendel’s outstanding 1977 version with Berglund and the Bournemouth SO (EMI, 5/78R) – and, it must be said, more convincingly held together than existing interpretations from Mordkovitch and Vengerov. Once again, Zimmermann is fortunate indeed in receiving such sympathetic support as that provided by Manfred Honeck and the Swedish RSO. I appreciate the purposeful tread of the opening Moderato (Britten’s qualifying con moto marking observed to beneficial effect), as well as the bracing momentum and rhythmic snap these fine artists impart to the fiery Scherzo. Zimmermann’s involving treatment of the cadenza leads to a deeply eloquent account of the concluding passacaglia, which contains some of Britten’s most plangent inspiration. The full-bodied sound here gives little cause for complaint. All told, an absorbing and thoroughly commendable release.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ***


Karol Szymanowski (6 October 1882 – 29 March 1937) was a Polish composer and pianist, the most celebrated Polish composer of the early 20th century. His career divided in 3 periods. The early works show the influence of the late Romantic German school as well as the early works of Alexander Scriabin. Later, he developed an impressionistic and partially atonal style. His third period was influenced by the folk music of the Polish Górale people. He is considered a member of the late 19th-/early 20th-century modernist movement Young Poland and widely viewed as one of the greatest Polish composers.


Benjamin Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. Britten's other works range from orchestral to choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental as well as film music. Britten was also a celebrated pianist and conductor, performing many of his own works in concert and on record.


Frank Peter Zimmermann (born 27 February 1965 in Duisburg) is a German violinist. He studied with Valery Gradov, Saschko Gawriloff, and Herman Krebbers. For EMI Classics Frank Peter Zimmermann recorded all major violin concertos, as well as many major works for solo violin and for violin and piano. From 2001 to 2015, Frank Peter Zimmermann plays a Stradivarius known as the Lady Inchiquin, from 1711, which once belonged to Fritz Kreisler. In January 2016 Zimmermann was loaned the 1727 "Général Dupont" Stradivarius, which had been owned by Arthur Grumiaux.


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