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CD Review

The Glenn Dicterow Collection

Volume 1

Glenn Dicterow, violin
1 New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Lorin Maazel
2 New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Alan Gilbert
3 New York Philharmonic Orchestra/David Robertson
4 New York Philharmonic Orchestra/John Williams
New York Philharmonic NYP20140201 Live Recordings
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This is Volume One of a three-part series, but the only such volume that will be made available on CD. That's dumb, especially because I doubt anybody wants one disc, and two playlists. It's disrespectful to consumers. That aside, Glenn Dicterow was the highly-regarded concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic until his retirement this season, and paying tribute to him – in whatever format one chooses – was the correct thing to do. It isn't often that Dicterow got the spotlight on disc, so this release is all the more welcome.

Unfortunately, the album starts in a less than promising fashion. The late Lorin Maazel returned to the Philharmonic's podium often after stepping down as Music Director, and he leads Dicterow and the orchestra in Bruch's Violin Concerto #1. The erstwhile concertmaster plays with great feeling and a sweet tone. Maazel clearly had absolutely no interest in the music, though. His stiff, even cold accompaniment is at odds with Dicterow's warmly emotive reading. The New York players contribute positively enough, when not being reigned in to the point of boredom. Not much of a tribute. And why two tracks for this work instead of the customary three? Silliness.

In the Bartók, Dicterow imbues this posthumous work with real commitment. Current Music Director Alan Gilbert proves a worthy partner. The playing isn't perfect, either from the soloist or orchestra, but it must have been wonderful live. Freed from Maazel's straightjacket podium presence, the Philharmonic's first-desk players nail their solo parts, and Gilbert creates a genuinely atmospheric setting for Dicterow to work with. The recording does not always capture the strings especially well (Avery Fisher is notoriously dry) but this is a worthy reminder of how great a player Dicterow could be alone.

The Korngold does not, in my mind, get the attention it deserves. It's a gorgeous work, filled with good tunes and memorable solo turns. From Dicterow's warmly phrased opening entrance, one senses this could be special. Despite sometimes questionable intonation here and there, everything else is mostly wonderful. And the New York Philharmonic really provides a lovely backdrop. Under the able direction of David Robertson (no, Yankees fans, not that David Robertson) the New York forces create some beautiful sounds. For his part, Dicterow plays passionately, and with great care. After a heartfelt middle Romance, the Finale proves equally persuasive. This is a really fine performance. The Theme from Schindler's List under John Williams' own baton ends the disc, and compares very favorably to the composer's "official" version with Perlman in Pittsburgh, although there's no reason to not own both. Despite the misguided inclusion of the Bruch, violin fans should find this an enjoyable purchase. The disc comes with a booklet absolutely filled to the brim with information for the artist's many admirers, and is also very well done. If you like that kind of thing, I recommend the downloads as well. Thanks for the memories, Glenn.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman