Violin Concerto, Romance
Kyung-Wha Chung, violin
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conductor
This album includes Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto op. 53 and Romance op. 11 and Bela Bartók’s two Rhapsodies for violin, performed by violinist Kyung-Wha Chung and the Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Riccardo Muti. Since I have already had the occasion to talk about Dvořák’s Violin concerto and Romance, I will add some details only on Bartók’s two Rhapsodies before talking about the recording.
Rhapsody no. 1 was composed in 1928 and in 1929 was arranged for violin and orchestra, as well as for cello and piano, and was dedicated to the Hungarian virtuoso Joseph Szigeti, friend of the composer and first interpreter of the Rhapsody. The premiere was conducted by Hermann Scherchen in 1930 in Königsberg. The first movement is a ternary form ABA, plus coda, the second movement presents five independent melodies, which never integrate with each other. The finale may be chosen between two alternatives, both written by Bartók himself.
Rhapsody no. 2 was composed in the same year of the previous, first for violin and piano and later arranged for orchestra. The first performance was held in Budapest in 1929, with Zoltán Székely, the dedicatee of the composition, as solo violin and with the direction of Ernő Dohnányi. The orchestral version was revised in 1935 and the version for piano in 1945. The second movement contains seven folk tunes, arranged in thirteen sections of different tempi and the finale was revised no less than seven times.
Riccardo Muti conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra with consummate skill, giving it a majesty that is from time to time grandiose or delicate, but equally evocative. Dvořák’s Concerto and Romance offer moments of extreme subtlety and vivacity, to the point of creating a fabulous atmosphere around the two compositions; the third movement of the Concerto, Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo, assumes in every respect the character of a dance. Bartók’s Rhapsodies have a completely different spirit and Muti replaces the dreamy aura of the previous works with a character that, if it is not harder, is certainly more serious, although even here there is abundance of nice moments, as in the Allegro of Rhapsody no. 1, which sometimes become even ironic.
Maybe the word “grace” would be enough to describe the violinist Kyung-Wha Chung, but of course I must provide some reasons, which I do not fail to add. First of all, she is a refined musician, both from a technical and interpretative point of view, and infuses a deep sweetness to her melodies, especially in the central part of Dvořák’s Adagio ma non troppo (of the Violin Concerto) and Romance, but also identifies herself with the brightest moments, although it seems to me that here to the irreproachable virtuosity lacks a bit of liveliness, as if the violinist still listens to the echo of the previous atmosphere. In Bartók’s Rhapsodies, however, Chung never tries to emerge on the orchestra, but she does her best to blend in with it, conveying to the listener the idea of something “thin”, although not ethereal. The delicate sound of her instrument is absolutely beautiful and is a great ally of Chung in tracing her creative path.