Maxim Rysanov performs Béla Bartók's Viola Concerto, with the Moscow Philharmonic at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory, in November 2009, Yuri Simonov conducting.
Béla Bartók, one of Hungary's most famous composers, worked on this piece between July and August 1945, in Saranac Lake, New York, while he was suffering from the terminal stages of leukemia. The violist William Primrose had commissioned the work. Bartók died in a New York City hospital on September 26, 1945, aged 64, leaving the scoring unfinished.
His death naturally lead to unanswered questions,essentially trying the guess the mind of a composer unable to offer definitive advice. It's true that Bartók did leave documents and a draft, yet it was left to the imagination of another to try to complete the work, in a sincere attempt to keep the composer's autograph. Such is explained in Bartok's Viola Concerto: The Remarkable Story of His Swansong (2004), by Donald Maurice; the publishers of the book, Oxford University Press, write:
After Bartok's death, his family asked the composer's friend Tibor Serly to look over the sketches of the concerto and to prepare it for publication. While a draft was ready, it took Serly years to assemble the sketches into a complete piece. In 1949, Primrose finally unveiled it, at a premiere performance with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra.
For almost half a century, the Serly version enjoyed great popularity among the viola community, even while it faced charges of inauthenticity. In the 1990s, several revisions appeared and, in 1995, the composer's son, Peter Bartok, released a revision, opening the way or an intensified debate on the authenticity of the multiple versions. This debate continues as violists and Bartok scholars seek the definitive version of this final work of Hungary's greatest composer.As for Maxim Rysanov, here's some background notes on this raising talent from his record label:
Recognised as one of the world’s best and most charismatic viola players, Maxim Rysanov is the winner of the prestigious 2008 Classic FM Gramophone Young Artist of the Year. Additional awards include the Tertis and Geneva competitions as well as the 2007 BBC New Generation artist scheme.
Originally from the Ukraine, Maxim is now based in London. He is regularly invited to perform as a soloist and chamber musician in the UK and abroad and has been a guest of many orchestras, festivals and venues worldwide.