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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Igor Stravinsky; Béla Bartók - Violin Concertos (Viktoria Mullova)


Composer: Igor Stravinsky; Béla Bartók
  1. Stravinsky - Violin Concerto in D major: 1. Toccata
  2. Stravinsky - Violin Concerto in D major: 2. Aria I
  3. Stravinsky - Violin Concerto in D major: 3. Aria II
  4. Stravinsky - Violin Concerto in D major: 4. Capriccio
  5. Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: 1. Allegro non troppo
  6. Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: 2. Andante tranquillo
  7. Bartók - Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: 3. Allegro molto

Viktoria Mullova, violin
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Date: 1997
Label: Philips



As strong a contender as any for top digital rating in this most communicative of twentieth-century concerto masterpieces, forthright and confident, with energetic support from Salonen and his orchestra. Philips’s engineering sounds like a digital upgrade of Mercury’s Living Presence technique: instrumental imaging is startlingly immediate, the sound stage is very well defined and the bottom end of the spectrum has enormous power, the bass drum especially. Mullova’s playing is committed and intense, with a ripe tone (evident from her first entry) and some filigree passagework in the second-movement variations, where Salonen is careful to clarify every bejewelled strand in Bartok’s scoring. The first movement is well thought through, though the timing exceeds Bartok’s own (as printed in the score) by some three minutes. Still, most rivals are similarly expansive, and the second movement is actually a few seconds faster than prescribed, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it works so well. The finale is again clearly focused, but the big surprise comes with the inclusion – or, rather, the substitution – of Bartok’s rarely heard original ending, where the soloist retires and the orchestra alone shoulder the whole of the coda. (Mullova took the same option at last year’s Proms.) The CD annotation makes no specific reference to this ‘surprise’ finale.

The Stravinsky concerto is another winner, with pert outer movements (the LAPO brass are alert but refreshingly unaggressive) and a ravishing account of the second “Aria”. Tempos are well chosen, the sound is again first-rate and I would rank this performance of the Stravinsky higher than any digital rival. As to the Bartok concerto, Zehetmair and Fischer offer less tonal lustre but more in the way of interpretative daring, while Rattle (with Chung) is marginally more attentive to instrumental minutiae. As I suggested earlier, Mullova is on a par with the best and Philips’s demonstration-worthy sound-frame may well persuade readers to make her recording a first choice.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:


Igor Stravinsky (17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. His output is typically divided into three general style periods: a Russian period, a neoclassical period, and a serial period.


Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist and an ethnomusicologist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century; he and Liszt are regarded as Hungary's greatest composers. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of comparative musicology, which later became ethnomusicology. Bartók's music reflects two trends that dramatically changed the sound of music in the 20th century: the breakdown of the diatonic system of harmony and the revival of nationalism.


Viktoria Mullova (born 27 November 1959 in Zhukovsky) is a Russian violinist. After studying under Leonid Kogan at the Moscow Conservatoire, Mullova won the Gold Medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982. She is best known for her performances and recordings of a number of violin concerti, compositions by J.S. Bach, and her innovative interpretations of popular and jazz compositions by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, the Beatles, and others. Mullova plays the Jules Falk Stradivarius from 1723 and a violin made in 1750 by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.


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