Zimmermann Plays Martinů & Bartók

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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 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, none of which I’ve heard.

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.

For examples apropos to this release, 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. So really, truly, what’s the big deal?

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.

Nice record. Get it if you want it.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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4 thoughts on “Zimmermann Plays Martinů & Bartók

  1. Michael Crump says:

    Why choose this recording to make generic remarks about the Classical music industry, which could surely have been made about the vast majority of recordings that cross your path?

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    • Because I generally do not review the vast majority of recordings that cross my path, and I felt that this recording should be made an example of. By the way, I have made similar comments on one or two others on this blog, particularly chamber music recordings.

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      • I’m not sure what your game is. I’ve written a couple of similar reviews of other recordings which I held up as an example of superfluous releases and neither you nor anyone else objected. I’m surmising that you must be the artist’s agent or a personal friend. In either case, you will not catch me taking your bait. I’ve had my say, you’ve had yours, and the case is closed. If you don’t like my reviews, you can always read someone else’s blog. I do not pretend that my opinions represent everyone’s and never have. My reviews are subjective reports of what I hear, and Zimmermann offers nothing of great interest as an interpreter, therefore this recording is superfluous. Have a good day.

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