> Tossy Spivakovsky PEARL GEM 0158 [JW]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Tossy Spivakovsky (1907-1998)
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)

La Ronde des Lutins


Sarabande in E minor

Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)

Cavatina in D Op 85 No 3

Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Dance of the Blessed Spirits – Orfeo ed Euridice

Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)


Fritz KREISLER (1874-1962)

Minuet in the style of Porpora
Sicilienne et Rigaudon
Caprice viennois
Tambourin chinois

Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Sonata No 11 in A
Sonata No 12 in C
Caprice No 20

Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Slavonic Dance No 10 in E minor

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Turkish March arr Leopold Auer
Chorus of Dervishes arr Leopold Auer

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Hungarian Dance No 1 arr Joseph Joachim
Waltz No 15 arr David Hochstein
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Scherzo-tarantelle Op 6

Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908)

Introduction and Tarantelle
Danza Espanola No 6 "Zapateado"

Tossy Spivakovsky, violin
Piano accompaniment
Recorded 1924-1931
PEARL GEM 0158 [70.20]

Collectors of early LPs may well remember the name Tossy Spivakovsky. His lithe recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos, amongst others, were popular in their time but he never achieved a real level of sustained international success and his career rather trailed off. Born in Odessa in 1907 he had a solid foundation studying in Berlin with the outstanding Italian violinist Arrigo Serato and later with Willy Hess at the Hochschule. In 1926 he was talent spotted by Furtwängler and became one of the leaders of the Berlin Philharmonic until, a year later, he left to follow an incipient solo career soon to founder with the arrival of the Nazis. He taught for a number of years in Australia before leaving for America where he led the Cleveland Orchestra and, rather sensationally, he gave the first performance in America of the Second Bartók Concerto under Rodzinski, and then repeated it in New York (a performance of which Bartók heard –"soloist first rate"). With that his prestige rose, his engagements increased and his solo profile remained high.

Spivakovsky was famous for his violinistic idiosyncrasies – he famously held the bow above the frog and the violin was held very flat with the result that the fiddle was way out over to the left, as noted by violist Emmanuel Vardi and quoted in Tully Potter’s notes. As we can hear in these Berlin Parlophones dating between 1924 and 1931 Spivakovsky had an exceptionally fast vibrato and his bowing peculiarities meant that he possessed less tonal colourisation than was perhaps optimum. Nevertheless there is an absolute core to his tone and his vibrato whilst usually of considerable velocity is not oscillatory. He is capable of frequently expressive playing with a highly personalised temperament if sometimes falling a little short in matters of nuance.

In the Bazzini the left hand pizzicatos are tossed off with panache, there is cleanliness in all positions and we can appreciate his narrow bore vibrato with no unnecessary and disruptive rubati. The Mouret has some fervent and rapt playing whilst in Raff’s ubiquitous Cavatina, a late acoustic from 1924, he is uncompromisingly slow with an appropriately slow slide – a young man’s performance. On the other side of the Raff was the Gluck in which the pianist – conjecturally held to be Spivakovsky’s talented pianist brother Jascha – sounds unduly rushed and the pair are guilty of some phrasal over eagerness. Again this is a rather gauche performance with insufficient space for repose, salon style downward portamenti and rather unsubtle over inflated rhetoric. These earlier recordings are instructive in showing us how quickly Spivakovsky matured from the adolescent talent to the more polished artist he was to become by 1928. His Bloch is fervid and Kreisler’s Sicilienne and Rigaudon attractive without quite the last ounce of charm - it’s certainly fast and with skipping momentum in the Rigaudon. He is undaunted by the pizzicato passages in Paganini’s 11th Sonata (in the customary piano arrangement) and he is driving and triumphant, dissipating technical difficulties in the 12th Sonata. His Dvorak Slavonic Dance is perhaps a little over emphatic whereas his Brahms Dance is fervidly done at a moderate tempo and much more convincing. The Hochstein arrangement of the Brahms Waltz is elegant, not over-emoted and attractive. His playing of Kreisler’s delicious Tambourin chinois seems to me to be somewhat emphatic once again but without any obvious heaviness; it’s very clean, scrupulous playing but not necessarily especially idiomatic. His performance of Caprice Viennois is spick and span, articulate in passagework if sounding a little artificial, a little practised. There’s a rough start to Wieniawski’s Scherzo-tarantelle – generally though the copies are excellent with the exception of the murky sounding Turkish March – but it features some nicely lyric phrasing but not as combustible as it should be and with a couple of excessive slides. Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantelle though receives a real daredevil reading but one perhaps with moments of worry in the lower strings and emerging – a personal view, this – as surprisingly uncultured playing. The Danza Española is a good deal more convincing, rhythmically energetic without ever losing control and with excellent phrasing.

Very few of Spivakovsky’s Parlophones have been reissued and they have been done so here with excellent results. It’s a pity about the booklet cover picture which looks like a fifth generation copy of an already murky original** but the records themselves are well transferred with minimal surface noise. Notes by Tully Potter are biographical and comprehensive. This is altogether a fine conspectus of a remarkable young talent.

Jonathan Woolf

** a note from pavilion records

Many thanks for your kind review of our Spivakovsky release but, on a minor matter, I would just like to point out that the cover is not a "fifth generation copy of an already murky original" but is in fact a deliberate high key bleachout of an original photograph to clarify and dramatize. You may not like it, but that is another matter!

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