Concerto for Double String Orchestra
Violin Concerto (To the Memory of an Angel)
Edith Peinemann (violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Tippett and Berg recorded on 18 February 1976 in the Royal Festival Hall, London; Janáček recorded on 12 October 1975 in Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2007
CD No: BBC LEGENDS
Duration: 78 minutes
This release of three great works from the twentieth-century – which were composed not that far apart from each other (the Janáček in 1926, the Berg in 1935 and the Tippett in 1939) – is an absolute triumph. Edith Peinemann (born in 1937 and, Tully Potter tells us in his booklet note, still playing and teaching) brings poise and passion to the solo part, and unvarnished timbres, to Alban Berg’s concerto written in “memory of an angel” (the daughter of Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler), a soulful and searching account that appreciates Berg’s extraordinary blending of meticulous musical thought and deep emotion. Kempe secures a vivid if not faultless orchestral response, which is both charged and respectful of Berg’s almost-obsessive concern for construction and Peinemann’s commitment is concentrated and her musicianship observant; all in all, this is a rather special account of Berg’s last completed work.
Kempe rounded-off the concert with Brahms’s Fourth Symphony (long available on BBC Legends). The disc is completed with Janáček’s Sinfonietta, which is not to be confused with a previous Kempe issue on BBC Legends of this work; that was from the Royal Albert Hall Proms while this current version was given in Fairfield Halls, Croydon (as I recall, this was a Sunday evening concert broadcast live on BBC2). Not as pungent or as brazen as some in this music, Kempe nevertheless brings out the interrelationships of the music and its joy and nobility – not unlike Rafael Kubelík, although the latter (on his Deutsche Grammophon recording) is the more ‘urgent’ interpreter. Although Kempe can be a little subdued at times, and without Kubelík’s relish, his is a discriminating ear, and has an ability to trace rather than bludgeon. The recorded sound, not from a BBC master-tape, is a little blowsy in terms of instrumental positioning, yet Kempe’s use of antiphonal violins suggests a reversal of channels (the Tippett and Berg are fine in this respect); but, musically, this is a refreshing view of Janáček’s concise blockbuster and an admirable close to a superb release.