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Ravi Narasimhan writes (in the Dudamel thread):

>I make even less of Bartok's Second Violin concerto.  Los Angeles
>native Leila Josefowicz hid behind its technical whizbangery but this,
>like her Knussen concerto of a couple years ago, left me wondering why
>the fuss about her and the pieces.

I have a sympathy with Ravi about the Bartok.  Many people don't have
any trouble with "getting" it, but for many years it was a blind spot
for me too.  Now I suppose I'd rather hear this than any other violin
concerto in the repertoire!  It was my problem, of course, not Bartok's:
I was listening to the piece in the wrong way, and with some false
preconceptions of my own about how a concerto might be done.  It's also,
I think, extremely difficult to play right, and I'd not had much luck
that way either.

I'm not sure that I can give Ravi any sage advice, apart from simply
to listen to each moment as it comes and marvel at how the composer
simultaneously both fulfils and confounds our expectations.  The concerto
works more like an introverted chamber piece, than like a virtuoso
display.  Its undoubtedly staggering "technical whizzbangery" is only
really a means to an end.

The penny dropped for me when I happened to hear Andre Gertler's
old performance on Supraphon, with Karel Ancerl conducting the Czech
Philharmonic: lyrical, beautifully poised, nothing done for effect, a
real dialogue between soloist and orchestra.  Heart and Head are held
in perfect balance - proof that heart can speak the more passionately
for not being exposed on the sleeve, as it is in quite a few performances
I've heard.  Gertler's is a wonderful record, and I'm glad to say that
it's still very much available, in well-refurbished modern sound.

Christopher Webber, Blackheath, London, UK
http://www.zarzuela.net
"ZARZUELA!" The Spanish Music Site

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