Here we can enjoy
Szeryng in a 1972 Queen Elizabeth Hall concert with the English
Chamber Orchestra, which he also directs. The fare is not new
to the discography. He recorded both the Four Seasons, and rather
more durably the G major; his set of the complete concertos
is still a most impressive achievement. Nevertheless it’s still
salutary to be reminded of his prowess in the early seventies
at the helm of an assured and compliant band.
His Mozartian playing
is generally as fresh and persuasive as one remembers it to
have been. The legato freedoms are certainly romanticist in
orientation but they lavish great depth, especially in the lower
strings. Then too there’s the great naturalness of Szeryng’s
phrasing, one of his greatest gifts as an elite Mozart player.
This makes the rather strange slithery chromaticism at around
5:12 in the first movement all the more perplexing. But there’s
nothing to cavil at in the slow movement – it’s simply beautiful
playing with a broad gamut of colours to articulate the melodic
line. His finale is a solid Rondo, engagingly done. Some may
find it just a little staid and lacking in zest – but, Perlman’s
quips about him to the contrary, I seldom find Szeryng lacking
in personality. And certainly not here.
The Four Seasons
is perhaps less satisfactory as a reading. It’s quite slow,
romantic in orientation once more, with plenty of legato phrasing
and ritardandi and the like. The ECO’s string tone is purposeful,
powerful but tends somewhat toward the generic-baroque. It tends
to be a little unrelieved. It’s true that the slow movement
of Autumn is projected with genuine depth of expression and
is markedly expressive and that the opening of Winter is eloquently
delineated. But against that it should be admitted that for
all the noble restraint of Winter’s slow movement things like
Autumn’s Allegro finale sound very jog-trotty. There are no
decorations or embellishments, which is hardly reprehensible
given the time and the player. But perhaps more problematic
is the avoidance of colour and a sense of animated fantasy in
the performance. For all the moments of finesse this is a rather
clement Four Seasons.
announcement he’s joined by José Luis Garcia for the Allegro
from the Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in A minor RV522
– very adroitly dispatched.
The sound quality
is first class and Tully Potter’s notes are predictably intelligent,
though I think he and I may differ on the subject of Szeryng’s
“spontaneous touches” in the Mozart!