BERNSTEIN; GÁL; KAMINSKI Violin Concertos (Erez Ofer)
Hans Gál’s Concertino for violin and string orchestra (1939) was one of the first works he composed in Britain following his escape from Nazi Vienna, one of the few completed before his internment the following year as an enemy alien. A convincingly balanced diptych, the Concertino is continuous and a melodic delight from first bar to last. The opening Andante tranquillo alternates lyrical and rhythmic elements, while the finale is a delightful Rigaudon. Erez Ofer has just the right touch for this lovely work, providing a performance that runs Annette-Barbara Vogel’s very close.
Ten years later, Joseph Kaminski (1903 72) – a pupil of Gál in the mid-1920s who had emigrated to Palestine in 1937 and was concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – completed his three-movement Violin Concerto and premiered it himself. The concerto received much praise and won the Engel Prize in 1950. A more dramatic work, the opening Moderato and central Adagio comme una elegia (the latter curiously omitted from the booklet commentary) may reflect the momentous political events during its composition: Israel’s independence and first war against its Arab neighbours. The Molto vivo finale, however, is lighter, built on a Jewish melody and Sephardic rhythms. It deserves to be much better known and Ofer plays it with great panache, accompanied – as in the Gál – with élan by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Frank Beermann.
Omer Meir Wellber takes up the baton for the final work, a sparkling rendition of Bernstein’s brilliant Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’. The benchmark recordings are the composer’s own with Francescatti, originally welcomed in these pages half a century ago, and – as per David Gutman’s Gramophone Collection piece (8/18) – Hilary Hahn’s brilliant account with Zinman 30 years later. Ofer’s stands up very well indeed; if not first choice then close to the top. With superb sound, strongly recommended.