Roman Simovic, LSO String Ensemble – Tchaikovsky: Serenade in C & Bartók: Divertimento (2014)
DSD64 (.dsf) 1 bit/2,8 MHz | Time – 55:50 minutes | 2,2 GB
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 55:50 minutes | 1,18 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Digital booklet
The LSO’s magnificent string sound is world renowned and this recording marks the LSO Live debut of the LSO String Ensemble, led by LSO leader Roman Simovic, who directs a performance of the much loved Tchaikovsky “Serenade for Strings”, together with Bartók’s “Divertimento”. The Serenade has proved to be one of Tchaikovsky’s most enduringly popular works, a piece he described as being “passionately in love with”. Inspired in part by Mozart, its elegant music weaves Russian folk-song, and a fine example of the composer’s beloved Waltz, with an elegiac musical centrepiece. Also featured on this release is Bartók’s “Divertimento”, one of the composer’s last works before leaving Europe for exile in the US. The Divertimento is a highly original work in its own unique idiom, contrasting two buoyant and light-hearted movements with a sombre Adagio in four sections.
Serenade for strings in C major Op 48 (1880)
Tchaikovsky composed his Serenade in the autumn of 1880, at the same time as the ‘1812’ Overture. After several years spent travelling in Europe in the aftermath of his disastrous marriage, he had finally returned to Russia. His mind was very much on a successor to the Fourth Symphony, but the work that emerged in November was scored for strings only. The Serenade—which was dedicated to Karl Albrecht, a cellist and fellow professor of Tchaikovsky’s at the Moscow Conservatory—was first played at a private concert there on 3 December 1880. Its public premiere took place on 30 October 1881 in St Petersburg at a concert sponsored by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Eduard Nápravník, and it was repeated in Moscow in January the following year. The Serenade has proved to be one of Tchaikovsky’s most enduringly popular works. It opens with a movement ‘in sonatina form’—i.e. without a development section. A slow introduction returns at the end. Then comes a waltz, one of Tchaikovsky’s favourite dance forms, whose opening theme is cunningly transposed and recast to form the opening theme of the slow third movement, an Elegy. The finale is sub-titled ‘Russian theme’. This theme, which appears after a quiet, slow introduction, turns out to be a transformation of the opening theme of the first movement, which then returns in its original, slow form in the coda to the whole work.
Divertimento Sz113 (1939)
Bartók’s Divertimento was one of the last works he wrote before leaving Europe for exile in the US. Like the Music for strings, percussion and celeste, it was written for the influential Swiss conductor and patron of contemporary music Paul Sacher, and his Basle Chamber Orchestra. The list of Sacher’s commissions, apart from Bartók’s pieces, eventually included Strauss’ Metamorphosen and Stravinsky’s Concerto in D major, alongside works by Honegger, Henze, Malipiero, Britten, and Tippett, among others. Bartók had become a vigorous and vocal opponent of Fascism during the 1930s, and by 1938 he was seriously considering emigration. But he had a frail, elderly mother to look after in Budapest and he was clearly torn between his desire to ‘stay at home and help matters as much as possible’, and his fear that by staying on, he would be perceived as tacitly condoning Nazi cultural and social policies. Then, in November 1938, he received Sacher’s commission, together with the generous offer of the loan of a chalet in the Swiss mountains, where he could compose in peace. After a frenetic round of international concert tours and folk-music collecting in the first half of 1939, Bartók finally accepted Sacher’s invitation. He spent about a month in Switzerland, feeling like ‘a musician of olden times, the invited guest of a patron of the arts’. In mid-August he reported to his family in Budapest that work on the new Divertimento had gone well, and he had finished the piece in just 15 days. Such was his intense concentration that when Sacher went to tell him of the outbreak of war, he found Bartók so utterly absorbed in his work that he was unaware of the momentous political upheaval that would affect his life so dramatically. After the Divertimento’s premiere in Basle on 11 June 1940, a critic wrote: ‘Thinking back to the concert, it now seems unreal and ghostly. Will the creative forces that stirred here be able to survive against the raging forces of annihilation, the violence that leads to total extermination of life?’ Within four months, Bartók had left Europe for the safety of the US. He never returned. For a piece written in such troubled times, the Divertimento at first seems unusually buoyant and light-hearted. Bartók announced that he was thinking of ‘some kind of concerto grosso’, and the scoring pits a solo string quartet against the broad mass of strings, rather in the 18th-century manner. But there the resemblance ends. The Divertimento is a highly original work in his own unique idiom, and is in no sense a neo-classical pastiche. The first movement is a sonata-form structure in light, carefree mood; the second, a sombre Adagio in four sections (of which the first and last correspond in Bartók’s favourite arch form), while the finale is a playful rondo, which effortlessly incorporates a double fugue at its heart.
01 – Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48: I. Pezzo in forma di sonatina: Andante non troppo – Allegro moderato
02 – Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48: II. Valse: Moderato – Tempo di valse
03 – Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48: III. Élégie: Larghetto elegiaco
04 – Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48: IV. Finale (Tema russo): Andante – Allegro con spirito
05 – Bartók: Divertimento, Sz. 113: I. Allegro ma non troppo
06 – Bartók: Divertimento, Sz. 113: II. Molto adagio
07 – Bartók: Divertimento, Sz. 113: III. Allegro assai
Produced by James Mallinson. Engineered by Jonathan Stokes.
Recorded live in DSD on October 27, 2013 at the Barbican, London.