Though he was not himself a violinist, Béla Bartók managed to compose two incredible violin concertos, the second of which is considered by some to be the most important violin concerto of the 20th century. The first concerto was written for the unrequited love of his youth, violinist Stefi Geyer, who never performed the work publicly and kept hold of the manuscript until her death in 1956. The two-movement work is filled with references to Bartók's relationship with her; the first movement luxuriously romantic and the second a pyrotechnic display of sheer virtuosity. The Second Concerto came about nearly two decades later from a commission. Though the work is in a Classical three-movement format, the inner workings are a mesmerizing series of motivic variations entirely of Bartók's design. Performing on this PentaTone Classics album are violinist Arabella Steinbacher and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Marek Janowski. Steinbacher continues in her recent trend of producing exemplary recordings and joining forces with equally refined orchestras. Both concertos are executed with virtually flawless technical accuracy: polished intonation, precise rhythm and articulation, and a right arm that equally creates long, flowing lines and aggressive, forceful accents. Steinbacher's connection with the score is clear as she guides listeners through the emotions of the First Concerto and the ingenious variations of the Second. Janowski leads his orchestra in a sensitive yet robust accompaniment, and PentaTone's sound is rich, full, and clear.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Violin Concerto No. 2|
|Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. Posth.|