The 2010s have brought an unusually strong succession of recording of Bartók's two violin concertos, each one adding something to the dialogue. The year 2018 brought new recordings by French violinist Renaud Capuçon and Germany's Christian Tetzlaff, the latter with Hannu Lintu leading the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The two recordings contrast sharply, which indicates nothing so much as the continuing richness of these works. Where Capuçon is dreamy, perhaps influenced by Bartók's connections to French Impressionism, Tetzlaff is big, dramatic, and firmly within the German virtuoso tradition. It is the Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Sz. 112, where he excels, taking his violin down to the limits of audibility and then having it explode in protest as the work descends deeper into the gloom of the late 1930s and the rise of fascism in the composer's Hungarian homeland. Sample the first movement for Tetzlaff's full range on display in this performance. The co-billing given Lintu in the graphics is justifiable, for he captures the unusually complex interaction between soloist and orchestra in this concerto, and special credit goes to Ondine's engineers, working from live performances at the Helsinki Music Centre. Tetzlaff also delivers an impressively sustained line in the arch-Romantic two-movement Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz. 36, written to impress a potential new violinist girlfriend. Is this a golden age of Bartók performance? Probably, and to think that just a few decades ago, informed opinion was on the point of discarding Bartók in favor of the greater wisdom of Viennese atonality.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Violin Concerto No. 2, Sz. 112|
|Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz. 36|