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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 [39.08]
Johannes BRAHMS
(1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 * [36.11]
Nathan Milstein (violin)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Steinberg
Recorded in the Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh in January 1955 and * November 1953 & April 1954.
EMI Great Recordings of the Century CDM 5 67583 2
[75.33]
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What riches are contained in the EMI back catalogue!

These two recordings are among the very finest made by Nathan Milstein (1903-92) and were set down when he was at the height of his considerable powers. Inevitably attention is focused primarily on the soloist but the accompaniment by the Pittsburgh orchestra under their then Music Director, William Steinberg (1899-1978), is a major factor in the success of both performances. Indeed, in his characteristically interesting notes Tully Potter relates that Steinberg was one of Milstein's favourite accompanists and certainly these recordings show that theirs was a fruitful and understanding collaboration.

In both concerti Milstein, who is recorded fairly forwardly, commands attention through his effortless virtuosity and his consistently full, singing tone. These are patrician performances of great sweep and style. The cadenzas are by Milstein himself and seem to me to be completely at one with the idiom of each work.

The mono sound is perfectly satisfactory and few allowances need to be made for the age of the recordings.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to these recordings is to say very little about them. It would be a brave (or foolhardy) person who would try to identify one of the countless versions of either concerto as a "best buy" and I'm certainly not going to try. However, these accounts by Milstein and Steinberg surely rank among the very best. Forget the over-hyped adolescent violin "virtuosi": this is the real thing. Strongly recommended.


John Quinn




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