Barber Orchestral Works
Deals don’t come much more tempting than this mid-price offering from BMG France, even in the absence of English notes, and my reservations are few and far between. Both the Adagio and exhilarating Medea showpiece (taped in 1957) with Munch and the Bostonians are beginning to show their age, and the ‘Dance of Vengeance’ sounds a little flustered by the side of Thomas Schippers’ classic NYPO account. In the exhilarating First Symphony Leonard Slatkin and his Saint Louis band offer far greater orchestral refinement, if less excitement and thrust than do Marin Alsop and a hard-working RSNO; David Zinman’s thrilling interpretation with the Baltimore SO arguably remains the best of all, with demonstration-worthy engineering.
The rest of the programme goes swimmingly. Dedicatee John Browning brings a patrician wisdom to the Piano Concerto (and, if a glance at my Schirmer study score is anything to go by, has one or two of his own editorial ideas about the solo part); Kyoko Takezawa’s is an ardent, formidably secure voice in the Violin Concerto (though Hilary Hahn is even more virtuosic in the moto perpetuo finale); and the Cello Concerto finds Steven Isserlis in rapt, observant form. Each is partnered with sympathy by Slatkin, who also teams up with Browning for a lively rendering of the 1952 Souvenirs (a dance suite for piano duet, later orchestrated as a ballet). Three Saint Louis SO principals make the best of the Capricorn Concerto for flute, oboe, trumpet and strings, an engaging concerto grosso from 1944 laid out for the same forces as Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto.