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The violin concerto must go down as the best solo work with orchestra of the three that S. Barber wrote. Unfortunately, this statement could be tainted since I am a violinist. I find the piano concerto a dull piece although John Browning gives a marvelous performance of this. It's hard to believe that three violinists looked over the manuscript of the violin concerto and couldn't solve the complexities well enough to perfect the work. I like Stern's interpretation of this, but I prefer an even legato phrasing in the opening theme of the first movement intead of what sounds like a squeegee use of the bow over the eigth notes in a Heifetz type mannerism; otherwise, the rest of his playing is wonderful. Compare this to Joshua Bell's playing and you have two sides of the same coin.
The Adagio for Strings is played with a lush romantic sound that cannot fail.
As performances, these are yet to be beat. No one has come close in the Piano Concerto, even Browning himself when he re-recorded it with Slatkin. Stern's is also at the top of the heap of recordings of the Violin Concerto. The only drawback is that the sound is beginning to show its age.
Sony Music Entertainment has inconsistent sound qyality; some disks are flawless, but some are weak and muddy. Stereo effect is not clear. Unfortunately, this disk is only acceptable--not great. The performances, on the other hand, are of extremely high quality.
Samuel Barber shall be my evidence that Americans can compose great symphonic music. If you need to chill out, I couldn't recommend any piece more than "Adagio for Strings." Also, I am a violinist, and I love his violin concerto. Recommended to any fellow music lover!
All I can say is I was expecting more from Bernstein, Stern, Szell and the orchestras on this recording. Szell, whose versions of the Prokofiev piano concertos are the absolute standard, fell short with this recording. The Slatkin is just so much better. The Slatkin has power and purpose and tension and drama. This one falls flat. Bernstein's Violin concerto is a clumsy mess compared to the Hahn/Wolff/St Paul Chamber version. The Bernstein version seems to be concentrating on the trees and forgetting about the forest. Individual instruments from the orchestra are highlighted at the expense of the whole orchestral sound. As a result, the concerto seems to always be stopping and starting. Never gaining any traction. The Hahn version moves fluidly and beautifully along. It is crisp, clear-eyed, and meaningful. It's almost as if the previous generation didn't take Barber seriously. And now, with the more recent recordings, those involved with playing his music are giving it the respect it deserves.