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Britten / Hindemith: Violin Concertos - Steinbacher / Jurowski

Britten / Hindemith: Violin Concertos - Steinbacher / Jurowski

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186 625

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Britten: Violin Concerto
Hindemith: Violin Concerto

Arabella Steinbacher (violin)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)


Breathtaking virtuosity flows seamlessly with expansive lyrical passages and fiendish passagework in this commanding performance by Arabella Steinbacher of the restless and technically demanding violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith, with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.

Britten’s haunting and mesmerising violin concerto is considered one of the century’s finest. The three contrasting movements are replete with grand theatrical gestures, unabashed lyricism, and show-stopping pyrotechnics, and the work closes with an austere passacaglia of other-wordly beauty and power. Following the work’s enthusiastic reception at its premiere in 1940 at Carnegie Hall, Britten declared “So far, it is without question my best piece”.

“Britten and Hindemith completed their concertos at about the same time,” writes Steinbacher, “both are absolutely bursting with emotional turmoil, persisting precariousness, and latent despair.” Steinbacher feels a particular affinity with the Hindemith concerto. “Every artist introduces his own life experiences and personal feelings into his interpretations ... with the Hindemith concerto, I have an extremely close, even private connection, as my father knew Hindemith rather well.”

Steinbacher’s previous recordings for PENTATONE have received widespread praise. For her playing in the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, Gramophone commented “one could hardly wish for a more expressive account of both concertos”; for the Korngold and Bruch Violin Concertos, Gramophone noted Steinbacher’s “easy virtuosity with concern to find the right tone and nuance for every phrase”. And BBC Music Magazine said of her last album, Fantasies, Rhapsodies, Daydreams, that it was “recorded in glowing sound that feels astonishingly lifelike ... this recital is something of a triumph”.

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Comment by Bruce Zeisel - November 14, 2017 (1 of 3)

I am first to comment on this ? !

I think it is fantastic. Every passage is imbued with a deep passionate musciality. The sound is strikingly good also. I have had recordings of the Hindemith dating from as early as Oistrach on Decca. This performance however holds my attention like no other - taking me deeply into the music.

Oh yes there is the matter of the Britten. I listened to it once so far. I love it. But until I get that Hindemith saturated into my being, I have no time for other related pleasures!

Comment by diw - November 16, 2017 (2 of 3)

How does this compare to Weinberg and Zimmerman recordings.

This is an interesting pairing.

Comment by hiredfox - November 18, 2017 (3 of 3)

Hi Bruce.

I buy all of Steinbacher's discs as a matter of course. In this case I felt that there was little of note in her new recording to add anything worthwhile here as comment [old adage: if you can say nothing good, then say nothing bad!].

Both works are notoriously difficult pieces for soloists which is readily acknowledged by Steinbacher in her booklet notes. Of the two pieces on offer for me she makes a better job of the Hindemith than Britten perhaps unsurprisingly as she reveals that the composer was a good friend of the her father so we may assume she knew him a little as well and perhaps through friendship had a fairly good understanding of what made him tick and where he was coming from.

The Britten concerto - again for me - is a near disaster. Steinbacher seemingly not able to reveal the underlying deeply engrained sadness and sense of hopelessness enshrined in the work. She seems hesitant and sometimes uncertain where restraint does not serve the music well. This music can move the listener to tears but not with this performer.

There have been two notable recent recordings of the Britten by Roth - Challenge SACD - and Ehnes - Onyx RBCD both of which are far more deeply expressive and despairing in tone and feel, both worthy contenders for automatic first choice and yes they do yield the odd throat swallow and tear.

Best wishes
John