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Berg & Beethoven: Violin Concertos / Isabelle Faust, Claudio Abbado

Album Summary

>Berg, Alban : Concerto for Violin
>Beethoven, Ludwig van : Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61
Performer Conductor Ensembles Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Violinist Isabelle Faust is featured on a disc of German violin concertos that marks the début recording for harmonia mundi by the great Italian conductor Claudio Abbado. Abbado is the artistic director and principal conductor of Orchestra Mozart, an ensemble based in Bologna. They team up here for Berg's haunting Violin Concerto, subtitled "To the Memory of an Angel." The work is dedicated to the memory of 18-year-old Manon Gropius, daughter of Alma Mahler, who died of polio in 1935. The pairing is Beethoven's immortal Violin Concerto, a work of rare beauty that, surprisingly, was not a success at its first performance. It was an 1844 concert featuring Joseph Joachim and Felix Mendelssohn, well after Beethoven's death, which revived the work and made it a permanent and beloved part of the violin repertoire.

"Isabelle Faust brings something to the violin concerto repertoire that cannot really be taught--a restrained passion and dreamy quality to her playing, along with a ravishing tone... The Berg Concerto has the quality of wistful sorrow and a poetic remembrance of loss, of things past (its subtitle is "On the Death of An Angel" and it was dedicated to the memory of a young lady Berg knew, stricken and taken from the world at an early age). Ms. Faust and Maestro Abbado bring out those qualities superbly with a kind of liquidity and flow to the performance I can't recall ever hearing so affectively handled. It is a most moving performance, one of the very best I have heard. Beethoven's concerto of course has another series of moods which Faust and Abbado handle nicely. Isabelle comes through with a more bravura version of her sweetness of tone, and Abaddo and Orchestra Mozart give us all the nuances of this masterwork in all the right places. All I can say is "Bravo!" An excellent recording in excellent sound. The Berg is stunning. The Beethoven uplifting and upbeat." -ClassicalModernMusic.blogspot.com

"Each note appears to shine with an inner glow...Under [Faust's] fingers, her Stradivarius produces an astonishingly varied range of sound to meet the demands of Berg’s concerto...The luminous sound of Abbado’s orchestra, a continuing glory, infuses the [Beethoven] concerto with a real sense of joy; I don’t know of any other interpretation that wears such a smile so lightly. Faust is a wonder on this disc, but Abbado is even more so." -The Times

"Abbado’s hand-picked ensemble...produces a sound that is thoroughly apt to the particular world of each piece. Faust’s timbre and spectrum of emotion are similarly judged and communicated with arresting maturity and sensibility. Likewise, she echoes the freshness and depth that Abbado stimulates in the orchestral playing of the Beethoven concerto, finding a mode of expression that is both lyrical and dynamic and contributing to a performance of real stature." -The Daily Telegraph

"Seamlessly reconciles intensity with gentle expressivity" -The Financial Times

The Independent
The unorthodox pairing... casts a curious spell in this thoughtful performance... Faust's chaste, pale sound is offset against stained-glass woodwind and serene brass in the Berg, while bassoonist Guilhaume Santana is a glamorous dancing partner in the Beethoven.

Irish Times
The [Berg's] expressive range, which includes vehemence as well as delicacy, is fully probed here.

Gramophone Magazine
The Beethoven and Berg Violin Concertos aren't commonly paired on disc. However, in this case it seems like an inspired piece of programme planning, with an account of the Berg that plumbs its depths of melancholy, setting off a radiant, life-affirming performance of the Beethoven... Outstanding performances of both concertos, then; I'll want to return to them often.

Sunday Times
Faust has already demonstrated her empathy with music from Bach to Jolivet, but her collaboration with Abbado is inspired. Indeed, both find more beauty in this challenging score than most interpreters on disc: Abbado gets sumptuous Middle European textures from his Bologna-based orchestra, also wonderfully transparent and airy in the Beethoven concerto, treated like expanded chamber music... .A glorious disc.

The Arts Desk
Faust's performance is special. There's something warm and consolatory in her playing. She doesn't overdo the sentimentality, and there's as much rapture as regret. None of which would be possible without Abbado's perfectly judged orchestral support; the violent outbursts in the second movement are rightly brutal and the work's closing minutes are exquisite... Buy this disc for the Berg - possibly the work's finest recording yet.

Fanfare Magazine - Robert Maxham
Isabelle Faust proves once again how close to the center she can hew in works as diverse as Beethoven's and Berg's concertos, while still displaying a highly individualized manner. The recorded sound is reverberant, with the violin placed well in front of the orchestra. For those who wish to explore the outer reaches of expressivity latent in Berg's concerto, Faust's reading should be a revelation, but her performance of Beethoven's should be no disappointing makeweight. And her collaboration with Abbado nudges the recommendation to the highest level of urgency.

BBC Music Magazine, April 2012
Listening to these wonderful performances side by side is cathartic...The journey is vividly delineated from the outset of the Berg. With Abbado drawing sonorities from his first-rate orchestra, Faust's limpid violin weaves subtly in and out of the music's dark and increasingly sorrowful fabric...The clouds immediately lift for the Beethoven...Faust's first entry is magical.

James Longstaffe, 13th February 2012
It is the elements of tragedy and loss that Faust brings out most effectively in her recording [of the Berg]; aside from an extraordinary tone and perfect intonation, you can feel the intent and conviction behind every single note she plays...Abbado is a master of orchestral balance...you can hear all of the tiny details and colours in the score. The orchestral playing is top-notch throughout...

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Teatro Manzoni, Bologna, Italy (11/2010).


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Works Details

>Berg, Alban : Concerto for Violin
  • Performer: Isabelle Faust (Violin)
  • Conductor: Claudio Abbado
  • Ensemble: Orchestra Mozart
  • Running Time: 11 min. 51 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1935

>Beethoven, Ludwig van : Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61
  • Performer: Isabelle Faust (Violin)
  • Conductor: Claudio Abbado
  • Running Time: 40 min. 10 sec.
  • Period Time: Classical
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1806