Wolf-Ferrari_Violin Concerto; Orchestral Music from Operas
Wolf-Ferrari’s Violin Concerto, a late work, was written for the young American virtuoso Guila Bustabo, who had enjoyed a meteoric career in the 1930s. Bustabo, displaying a seemingly unworldly disregard of the political implications of her actions, had no qualms about appearing in wartime Germany and in occupied France; the work’s Munich premiere in January 1944 was followed shortly afterwards by a Paris performance under Mengelberg.
There is no hint in the music of the desperate times in which it was written. Wolf-Ferrari would appear to have fallen in love with Bustabo and the Concerto is by turns bright and ethereal, passionate and tender, as well as allowing full rein for Bustabo’s virtuosity. The firmly tonal idiom would not have seemed controversial even in Wolf-Ferrari’s heyday in the 1900s. It’s melodious, appealing music, rhapsodic yet skilfully structured, except perhaps in the finale, where the witty, humorous Rondo (a little like Prokofiev but less acerbic) is interrupted by an over-long solo meditation on the themes of the first movement. The album is sumptuously produced, with a supporting DVD and many photos and facsimiles. And the music is performed with persuasive conviction, helped by a recording that brings out the beauty of Wolf-Ferrari’s orchestral writing. Benjamin Schmid is a wonderfully eloquent advocate for the Concerto, evoking the intense, romantic aura of the initial bond between composer and violinist. And the short orchestral pieces, given lively, graceful performances, take us back to the happier times when Wolf-Ferrari achieved his first successes.