Concerto For Violin and Orchestra/Rozsa

April 11, 2007


Rozsa wrote in his memoirs Double Life “My ‘public’ career as composer for films ran alongside my ‘private’ development as composer for myself, or at least for nonutilitarian purposes: two parallel lines, and in the interests of both my concern has always been to prevent their meeting”. Such was not to be the case with the Concerto for Violin. Written in 1953 in the same Italian town Rapallo, where Sibelius wrote his 2nd Symphony, the concerto was completed in a scant six weeks. Jascha Heifetz became quite intrigued with the piece and worked with Rozsa during the following year fine-tuning it for concert performance. The world premiere took place in January of 1956 in Dallas with Heifetz playing and was later recorded for RCA. Because of their working together Rozsa was able to joke that he was known as a “teacher of Jascha Heifetz” even though he had not played a violin in many years! Nearly 15 years had passed since the recording of the Violin Concerto and unknown to Miklos, Billy Wilder had absolutely fallen in love with the piece to the point of wanting to use the themes in his upcoming 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Thus the case of the two parallel lines somehow intersecting each other and the Concerto was brought to the public eye yet again.

The 30 minute Violin Concerto follows the 3 movement structure starting with an Allegro which introduces the theme somewhat complex but one which oozes romance in parts yet shows the technical playing in other sections of the soloist in this case Robert McDuffie. The Hungarian gypsy influence comes through loud and clear with the orchestra taking a back seat for much of the movement as the violin performs. The second movement, a Lento cantabile, features a quiet melodic gypsy serenade performed with elegance both on the violin and supported by the orchestra. The third movement is a bright allegro vivace with splendid difficult technical violin work, but lacking the strong melodic theme the first two movements had.

Again the parallel lines crossed this time with the Cello Concerto (1968) being used in the science fiction film The Power. It was also written in the traditional three movement style with the overall work having much more of a romantic classical flavor than the Violin Concerto, which has a Hollywood sound for parts of the work. While the allegro vivo has a moment or two for the Hollywood dramatic it has a dissonant texture one can very easily find intriguing. The Lento middle movement has that yearning Rozsa flavor and the beginning Moderato is allowed to be fully developed filled with techniques that Rozsa normally didn’t do.

Themes and Variations, Op. 29a from 1958 is the second movement only of the 3 movement work written for Cello and Violin, both being given equal time. Being written for both Heifetz and Piatigorsky to perform, the equal issue was quite important! The definite Hungarian sounding theme has pauses so one can hear the several variations that follow. Both Harrell and McDuffie perform the work well which each soloist being given the opportunity to shine.

Overall this is an excellent recording of three works of Rozsa that many of you are not familiar with at all. Levi, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the soloists Robert McDuffie and Lynn Harrell perform extremely well. The Telarc engineering team is up to its usual high standards and the sound is top notch. Upon repeated listens you will hear some of the famous Hollywood style of Rozsa. This is a definite must have for anyone who is interested in Rozsa scores. If nothing else it is a welcome addition along side of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Golden Score Rating (****)

Telarc CD-80518

Engineered by Michael Bishop

Produced by Robert Woods


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