MARTINŮ: Violin Concertos Nos. 2 & 1. BARTÓK: Solo Violin Sonata / Frank Peter Zimmermann, vln; Bamberg Symphony Orch.; Jakub Hrůša, cond / Bis SACD-2457
German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, whose recording of Beethoven Violin Sonatas I gave high praise to a while back, plays here both of Martinů’s violin concerti along with Bartók’s solo violin sonata. The liner notes come up with the usual line that every single classical performer today uses, that he is one of the foremost violinists “of his generation,” which essentially means nothing. What other generation could he or would he be a member of? But he is a fine player who studied with three teachers I’ve never heard of, and has made numerous recordings over the years.
He has a bright tone, which is unusual for a German, and a lively, energetic manner of playing which suits the music. The Bamberg Symphony plays very well behind him, though I found the recording to be over-ambient which made then sound rather blowsy in loud passages. Their punchy rhythm, however, is quite enervating.
But you know, if Zimmermann is one of the foremost violinists of his generation, why doesn’t he record MUSIC of his generation? Why does he, like so many classical musicians, play music of the past by dead composers? We’re living in 2020; the last piece on this disc was written in 1944. Yes, I do like the music of Bartók and Martinů, but for crying out loud, modernize your repertoire! Honestly, it’s gotten to the point where I think I’m going to stop reviewing new recordings of older music unless they’re so exceptional that they completely supplant the dozens of recordings from the past that equal or surpass them in interpretation.
Unlike the Beethoven sonatas, which he played in a very interesting manner, Zimmermann does not play the Martinů Concerto No. 2 any better than Julia Fischer did with David Zinman conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, nor does he play the Bartók Sonata for Solo Violin better than Barnabás Kelemen on Hungaroton or Tamsin Waley Cohen on Signum.
Interestingly, Martinů’s first violin concerto, written in 1932-33, sounds more modern than the second, which is probably why it’s not nearly as popular. But then again, classical audiences are retro-loving fools who refuse to grow up musically. (Sorry for that editorial comment, but sadly, it’s true.)
It’s a nice record, though. Get it if you want it.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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