Baroque and contemporary composers find spiritual companionship
The Strad Issue: April 2023
Description: Baroque and contemporary composers find spiritual companionship
Musicians: Arabella Steinbacher, Christoph Koncz (violins) Peter von Wienhardt (piano) Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Works: Bach: Violin Concertos: in A minor BWV1041, in E major BWV1042; Concerto in D minor for two violins BWV1043. Pärt: Fratres (version for violin, string orchestra and percussion); Spiegel im Spiegel
Catalogue number: PENTATONE PTC5187017
Arabella Steinbacher perceives Bach and Pärt as suitable bedfellows because they ‘have a spiritual and sacred origin in common’ and their music moves her emotionally. She is certainly a persuasive advocate of Pärt’s Fratres, introducing its variations with a dextrous preludial solo section and conveying their hypnotic effect with assurance and artistry. However, although mesmerising, for my taste her account of Pärt’s simplistic Spiegel im Spiegel is over-warmed with vibrato.
Steinbacher’s take on the Bach concertos is a curious mix of old-school sonorities, including fluid vibrato and occasional portamento, and ‘period’ fleetness. Her outer movements are mostly brisk and energetic, with plenty of attack and dynamic contrast, but lighter off-string bow strokes in some solo passagework. The central movements are elegantly shaped and lyrically conveyed, but the Adagio of the E major seems wearily slow. For the D minor Concerto Steinbacher is joined by Christoph Koncz and they respond to, rather than mirror each other, often adopting different ideas regarding articulation and vibrato usage, especially in the central Largo. Their motorically driven opening Vivace sounds somewhat scrambled in places but they hold the reins firmly in the finale, exuberantly supported by the Stuttgart players.
The church recording showcases the pristine tone of Steinbacher’s 1744 ‘Sainton’ Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ violin, delivering tintinnabular clarity throughout.
Read: ‘A huge versatility of sound’: Arabella Steinbacher on the 1744 ‘Sainton’ Guarneri ‘del Gesu’ violin
Read: Arabella Steinbacher’s top 5 practice tips
Read: Arabella Steinbacher on Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto
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