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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A, Op. 47, ‘Kreutzera (1803) [31’01].
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108b (1888) [19’40].
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in Ac (1886) [25’08].
Jascha Heifetz (violin); aBenno Moiseiwitsch, bWilliam Kapell, cArtur Rubinstein (pianos).
From RCA Victor aLM-1193, bLM-71, cHMV DB3206-08. Rec. Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London, on  aMay 14th-15th, 1951, cApril 3rd, 1937 and bRCA Studios, Hollywood, on November 29th-30th, 1950. ADD


Those were the days. The roster of pianists here is almost beyond belief … and they’re all accompanying! Three truly great pianists - all very different from one another - in the company of one of the greatest violinists. What happened, of course, was that collaboration with Heifetz was evidently just that – collaboration, a meeting of minds united in service to the composer.

The story behind the ‘Kreutzer’ is that these two gents recorded the work on June 13th 1949. Heifetz disliked his test pressings, necessitating this return to Abbey Road. The 1949 performance is actually available, taken from the pianist’s test pressings, on APR5610 (see for a review on this site by Jonathan Woolf). I only have this to hand, alas, but can report that there is sovereign playing from both artists. Dare I say it that it is to Heifetz’s credit that he doesn’t take a back seat and just bask in the magnificence of Moiseiwitsch’s playing? A pianist reviewing, I hear you exclaim, and I am guilty as charged. Listen to the pianist’s definition throughout, or the huge energy that comes from the piano’s direction around 4’15. Try also the duet between Heifetz and Moiseiwitsch’s left-hand (8’10), two independent voices reacting to each other.

But to praise Moiseiwitsch to the skies is not to demean for a millisecond Heifetz, captured here on top form. And the listening public at large owes Mark Obert-Thorn big-time for his transfer. The sweetness of Heifetz’s tone comes through easily.

If Heifetz’s lyric stretch is awe-inspiring in the Andante (con Variazioni), this reviewer’s ears were drawn time and time again to the many felicities in the piano part. The agile finale emerges as almost Mendelssohnian with these two Masters of their art, yet – crucially – implies simultaneously a sense of the vast. Profundity co-exists peacefully with lightness, and, towards the end, real excitement. This performance is surely one of the real events in the history of the gramophone.

The Brahms Third Sonata features William Kapell, no less. Both players inject great energy and life into Brahms’ magnificent score. Thanks are due to Naxos for allowing us to compare and contrast Moiseiwitsch and Kapell like this. It is true that Kapell is not the patrician Moiseiwitsch is on this disc, but his strength is that he is positively chameleon-like in his responses. Perhaps ultra-harmonically sensitive is closer to it, and in Brahms this is surely the key to a great performance. The grand expression of the Adagio (which includes moments of real delicacy), the light touch all round for the ‘Un poco presto e con sentimento’ and the fire of the finale are all remarkable.

Finally, Franck’s magnificent Sonata with Rubinstein. If the first movement’s lovely flow (it is taken quite fast) is not quite the Belgian-French experience one could wish for, the sonata is almost worth hearing just for Rubinstein in the second movement. There is no trace whatsoever of the finger-awkwardness one so often encounters. The third movement is almost improvisatory, seeming to invoke French gypsies! Together, Heifetz and Rubinstein ease into the finale.

If there is a ‘weak’ performance here it is the Franck, an account that remains, by virtually anyone else’s standards, excellent. True, personally speaking I was less taken with Rubinstein than by Moiseiwitsch and Kapell, but then again on a disc like this one is so spoiled …

Booklet notes are as excellently informed as one might expect from the authority Tully Potter.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf




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