Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, op.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, op. 77.
Jascha Heifetz - NBC Symphony
Orchestra - Arturo Toscanini (Beethoven)
Jascha Heifetz - Boston Symphony Orchestra - Serge Koussevitsky
recorded 11th March 1940 (Beethoven) in Studio 8H, New York &
11th April 1939 (Brahms) from Symphony Hall,
Naxos 8.110936 [76.31]
This is a disc in Naxos's historical series of great violinists. Both
performances here are superb and the question of whether this disc is good
value depends on the quality of the recordings. Heifetz recorded both works
commercially more than once and other recordings of his are available, albeit
at a higher price. Indeed the current performances are also available on
other labels, and so there is substantial competition. There are issues on
Biddulph, Pearl and RCA which also hold these performances.
So what we have here are two famous performances played immaculately by a
violinist at the very height of his powers, issued at a bargain price with
fully comprehensive notes on both works and the artists, together with a
brief history of the performances themselves.
Both concertos sound, subject to the limitations of the then technology,
absolutely first rate, and the transfers (done by Marc Obert-Thorn) whilst
not in the Dutton class, are much clearer and better than the other more
expensive issues which are available. Certainly if you wish to purchase these
performances, this is the disc to go for.
When they were recorded, Jascha Heifetz was universally recognised as the
finest violinist in the world, and up until then had made most of his concerto
recordings in England with Sir Thomas Beecham and the young John Barbirolli.
His recording company, RCA, decided at the end of the 1930's that Heifetz
should be recorded with the great American Orchestras, and apart from one
or two issues (with Sir Malcolm Sargent) nearly all of his concerto recordings
followed this strategy up until his death in 1987. RCA used the services
of their contracted Orchestras in New York, Boston and Chicago, and, with
a few exceptions, their respective conductors Toscanini, Munch and Reiner.
I would say that to my ears, the Beethoven is a slightly better recording
than the Brahms, but there is not much in it. Indeed by the time you have
settled down to listen, the 78 rpm sound quality is quite acceptable and
you can enjoy the wonderful playing without any great distraction.
On the subject of cadenzas, these recordings give you a chance to sample
something out of the ordinary. In the Beethoven, Kreisler uses the cadenza
written by Heifetz's teacher, Leopold Auer in the first movement. In the
second movement we hear the link from the slow movement to the finale as
written by Joachim, and the cadenza proper for the finale was a mixture written
by Auer, Joachim, with further modifications by the soloist.
I urge you to buy this issue - it is more than worthwhile hearing in its
own right, and in such relatively good sound at such a low price it is