Review by Edvin July 4, 2006 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
|Comparisons Ginastera: Zabaleta/Martinon - DG, Allen/Batiz - ASV
Comparisons Montsalvatge: None
Writing a concerto for harp and orchestra is no mean feat. The solo instrument hasn´t got the power of a grand piano or the legato line of a stringed instrument. So as a composer you have to create a piece of contrasts in order to keep the listener awake.
Alberto Ginastera from Argentina, 1916-1983, wrote his concerto in 1956 for Edna Phillips but the first performance took place nine years later, for some strange reason, when Nicanor Zabaleta in Philadelphia with Ormandy played it to great success. Zabaleta later recorded it with Jean Martinon and the ORTF National Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon. A well planned LP with additional music by Saint-Saëns and Tailleferre. In the late eighties Nancy Allen made her recording in Mexico wih Enrique Bátiz and both these recordings are very fine indeed.
The concerto is in three movements and in my opinion one of Ginastera´s best pieces. It has all the rhythmic vitality of Panambi, the sternnes of the piano concertos and the wonderful sense of the open countryside that you find in pieces like the Creole overture. Among these ingredients Ginastera is a master of form and taste. The second movement has a nocturnal feeling to it, gradually givng way to a festival of a finale. It´s all song and dance from now on.
The Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge, 1912-2002, finished his Concerto Capriccio in 1975. I had never heard this piece before and it is the most positive surprise I´ve had for a long time. The opening is highly original with loads of percussion and it leads to a series of inventions of the most interesting and attractive kind. Sometimes the tunes are of a child-like character, but mostly it is outgoing and really hefty. We are nowhere near de Falla, not even close to Rodrigo. This is so much more original and special. Montsalvatge blnds his ancestry with his influences from Stravinsky and the French group "Les Six.
My first thought when listening to this music was..where does he get all these ideas from? The music pours like from a fountain. But he also has the good taste to intersperse with very delicate ideas and I love the section with solo harp playing on the strings as well as knocking on the resonance box. Montsalvatge is an expert composer and he knows exactly what he is doing and where the music is going to go. He uses the woodwind effectively as a roof over the more rhythmic brass and strings and percussion.
The middle movement begins with a ray of absolute sunshine in the form of a solo harp, followed by flute and solo strings. Things get terser and the music is like a knot slowly getting tighter.
Montsalvatge is a master builder and in the finale once we are on our way we suddenly stumbles into a folk song leading us to an end of high spirits. But I love all these stops on the way, these reflection posts, like waiting for the bus or something. You know where we can´t influence the situation. Either you like it and relax or not and go bonkers.
These performances are the best and we have in Godelieve Schrama a harpist of world class. The conductor Gérard Kosten and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra play magnificantly. The sound is wonderful with a very wide dynamic range and a distinct feeling of the room. I can hear the floorboards shaking.
This is a great SACD and I love the design of the SACD with a most wonderful bull. My only complaint is that it is not multichannel. But it sounds great so please don´t let this put you off from buying it. This is worth so much more than another Mahler 5.
Was this review helpful to you?