Thursday, October 25, 2012

Primrose, Munch, Boston Symphony
"Berlioz: Harold in Italy" (Vinyl)

Q: What's the world's longest viola joke?

A: "Harold in Italy."

It's not really a great joke, but it's not really a great piece of music.
Berlioz wrote it for Paganini to perform in concert as a way of showing off Paganini's (apparently) endless capacity for playing anything with strings on it.
The result has been met with mixed results since it's premiere.  Paganini initially decided the piece to be too...stupid.  He later changed his mind, and like most pieces in the violists' canon, even mediocre works are held to esteem simply because repertoire choices are too remote in the 19th century.

Primrose, the great champion in raising the viola to a position of prominence in the 20th century (both Walton and Bartok wrote their concertos for him) plays the role of Harold on this recording.  That's primarily why I got it; I personally often find Primrose's playing to be dated, but as the fountainhead his work should command study.

This is a re-issue of an earlier RCA "Living Stereo" which I would love to find some day.  This is one of RCA's hefty "Gold Seal" releases, but I'm learning nothing compares with the quality and care taken for those early vinyl releases.

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