Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Great Violinist series - Jascha Heifetz
Violin Concerto No 2 (1935)
Violin Concerto (1943)
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
Boston SO/Koussevitsky [rec 20 Dec 1937]
San Francisco SO/Monteux [rec 17 Dec 1945]
mono recordings
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110942 [62.16]
(pre-release so keep trying this sales link until it works)

The expiry of copyright and the tender loving transfers of Mark Obert-Thorn combine to bring the latest in a series of seven Heifetz discs to your collection. That Naxos bring all this to us at budget price is all the more remarkable. Small wonder that this company has turned the retail classical market upside down and changed the face of record shops across the world.

Although Heifetz produced a stereo version of the Prokofiev for RCA - BMG there was no second version of the Gruenberg. Gruenberg (1884-1964), a peripheral figure, will be known to discophiles because of this recording. His opera Emperor Jones (1932) also briefly held centre-stage largely as a result of Lawrence Tibbett's singing of the role of an American black man. What of the concerto? It was commissioned by Heifetz and premiered on 1 December 1944. The first movement is ripely romantic - closer to the Walton and Korngold than to the Prokofiev. It is over-candied though the warm Delian flow of middle movement will appeal to the sweet-toothed and sustain interest at least until it succumbs to mawkish spirituals and hill-billy tunes. The solo line is spun with sloe-eyed succulence by Heifetz. It is in the finale that fragments of jazz and popular rhythms rise to the surface. Tully Potter's welcome notes tell us that Gruenberg was aiming at a popular work and the camp high jinks of the last movement suggest he fulfilled his aim. Not wanting to be too po-faced about this but there is enough substance in the serious Gruenberg (to be sampled in the first part of the slow movement) to make me sanguine about his other music. There are five symphonies, and pair each of piano quintets and piano concertos. The Prokofiev has a fruity élan in Heifetz's hands but it is no match as a work for the First Concerto. Its phrases recall the great Romeo and Juliet score. In the andante assai this strand touches the pristine world of Bach. Heifetz is throughout as secure and as brilliant as you might expect.

Rob Barnett

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