> Joseph Szigeti ANDaNTE 2991-2994 [CF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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CD 1 - 70:10

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Keyboard Concerto in D Minor BWV 1052 (arr. violin Robert Reitz) 23:18
1 I Allegro 7:50
2 II Adagio 7:32
3 III Allegro 7:56
Fritz Stiedry, Orchestra of the New Friends of Music
New York · 24 April 1940 COLUMBIA MM-418
XCO 27 207/27 212

Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Concerto in D Minor, D 45 (arr. Pente; new version arr. Szigeti) 13:14
4 I Allegro 5:20
5 II Grave 3:46
6 III Presto 4:08
Joseph Szigeti, violin with orchestra
London · 6 December 1937
COLUMBIA LX 710/ 711 CAX 8130/8132
COLUMBIA MASTERWORKS X/103

Johann Sebastian BACH
7 Largo from Keyboard Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056 (arr. Szigeti) 3:40
Joseph Szigeti, violin with orchestra
London · 6 December 1937
COLUMBIA LX 711 (CAX 8133-2)
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Selections from Capriol Suite (excerpts arr. Szigeti) 5:20
8 Basse Danse 1:32
9 Pavane 2:49
10 Mattachins 0:59
Nikita Magaloff, piano
London · 6 March 1936
COLUMBIA LB 32 (CAX 15651-1, 15652-1)
Set U.S Columbia: Joseph Szigeti in Gypsy Melodies

Antonin DVORÁK (1841-1904)
11 Slavonic Dance No. 1, G Minor op. 46/2 (arr. Kreisler) 3:11
12 Slavonic Dance No. 2, G Minor op. 72/2 (arr. Kreisler) 3:27
11. CO 30 105 · New York · 21 March 1941
12. CO 31947/ 3111951 · New York · 24 November 1941
Jenö HUBAY (1855-1937)

13 Hungarian Rhapsody from "Scènes de la Csarda" Op. 18 6:46
CO 31947/ 3111951 · New York · 24 November 1941
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)

14 Intermezzo from "Háry János" (arr. Szigeti) 4:27
CO 31947/ 3111951 · New York · 24 November 1941
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

15 Hungarian Dance (arr. Joachim) 2:17
15. CO 31947/ 3111951 · New York · 24 November 1941 Andor Földes, piano
COLUMBIA Masterworks Set M 513

Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
16 Sumare, Saudades do Brasil No. 9, op. 68 (1920-21) 1:49
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
17 Danza De Molinero – Miller’s Dance (from "El sombrero de tres
picos" – The Three-Cornered Hat, 1919) (arr. Szigeti) 2:10
Anton Farkas, piano
New York · 5 June 1940
COLUMBIA LOX – 502 (XCO 27 425)
 
CD 2 - 71:59


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in D Major, op. 61 (1806) 41:41
1 I Allegro ma non troppo 22:20
2 II Larghetto 9:47
3 III Rondo: Allegro 9:34
Bruno Walter, British Symphony Orchestra
Westminster, Central Hall, London · 18 April 1932
COLUMBIA LFX 293/ 297
(CAX 6388-3, 89-2, 90-2, 91-1, 92-2, 94-2, 95-2, 96-2, 97-2)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in E Minor, op. 64 (1844)
4 I Allegro molto appassionato 12:22
5 II Andante 8:15
6 III Allegro non troppo — Allegro molto vivace 6:23
Sir Thomas Beecham, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Abbey Road, Studio No. 1, London · 27-28 September 1933
COLUMBIA LFX 348/ 351 (CAX 6932-2, 33-2, 34-1, 35-7, 36-1, 37-1, 38-1)
Nicoló Paganini (1782-1840)
7 Caprice No. 9 (The Hunt, 1817) 3:02
Abbey Road, Studio No. 1, London · 28 September 1933
COLUMBIA LFX 349 (CAX 6939-1)

Joseph Szigeti (violin)
ANDaNTE 2991-2994

Andante

CD 3 - 77:01
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra in D Major, op. 19 20:48
1 I Andantino — Andante assai 9:14
2 II Scherzo: Vivacissimo 3:52
3 III Moderato 7:12
Sir Thomas Beecham, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Abbey Road, Studio No. 1, London · 23 August 1935
COLUMBIA LFX 402/ 404 (CAX 7583-2, 84-3, 85-2, 86-2, 87-2)
Niccoló PAGANINI

4 Caprice No. 2, op. 1 No. 2 2:35
Abbey Road, Studio No. 1, London · 23 August 1935
COLUMBIA LFX 404 (CAX 7588-1)
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Violin Concerto 36:41
5 I Allegro deciso - Moderato - Allegro 19:00
6 II Andante 6:37
7 III Deciso - Allegro moderato 10:31 + applause 00:13
Willem Mengelberg, Concertgebouworkest
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam · 9 November 1939
(Radiophonic recording on acetates)
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
KONTRASZTOK, Sz. 111, Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano 16:58
8 I Verbunkos (Recruiting dance) 5:26
9 II Pihenö (Relaxation) 4:30
10 III Sebes (Fast dance) 6:56
Benny Goodman, clarinet · Béla Bartók, piano
World Broadcasting Studios, New York · 13-14 May 1940
COLUMBIA MASTERWORKS X-178
WXCO 26819/26822)
CD 4 - 77:43

George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata op. 1, No. 13 in D Major 13:13
1 I Adagio — Andante sostenuto 4:09
2 II Allegro 2:38
3 III Larghetto 3:27
4 IV Allegro 2:59
Nikita Magaloff, piano
EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London · 2 March 1937
COLUMBIA LB 36/ 37 (CA 16 265-1, 66-1, 67-1, 68-1)
Johannes BRAHMS
Sonata No. 3, op. 108 (1886-1888) 22:58
5 I Allegro 8:46
6 II Adagio 4:43
7 III Un poco presto e con sentimento 3:10
8 IV Presto agitato 6:19
Egon Petri, piano
EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London · 8 December 1937
COLUMBIA AM-324 (69 158-D/ 69 160-D)
(CAX 8134-1, 35-1/ 36-2/ 37-2/ 38-3, 39-2)
Darius MILHAUD

9 Le Printemps, Op. 18 2:53
10 Corcovado, Saudades do Brasil N° 7, Op. 67 (arr. violin Claude Levy) 2:10
Kurt Ruhrseitz, piano
Petty France Studios, London
9. 1 July 1927 · COLUMBIA L 1963 (WAX 2929)
10. 9 July 1926 · COLUMBIA D 1527 (WA 3587)
Ernest BLOCH
Baal Shem (Three Pictures of Chassidic Life) 13:20
11 I Vidui (Absolution) 2:58
12 II Nigun (Improvisation) 5:43
13 III Simchas Torah (Rejoicing) 4:39
Andor Foldes, piano
Liederkranz Hall, New York · 4 June 1940
COLUMBIA Masterworks Set X 188 (70 743-D/ 70 744-D, XCO 27411/
27413)
 

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertant for violin and piano 15:26
14 I Cantilène 2:54
15 II Eglogue I 2:06
16 III Eglogue II 2:58
17 IV Gigue 4:18
18 V Dithyrambe 3:01
Igor Stravinsky, piano
Warner Bros. Studios, Hollywood · 11 & 13 October 1945
COLUMBIA Masterworks MM 922 (CO 35325/ 35331)
19 Pastorale (1907) (arr. violin and strings, 1933) 2:53
Mitchell Miller, oboe · Robert McGinnis, clarinet · Bert Gassman, English
horn · Sol Schoenbach, bassoon · Igor Stravinsky, conductor
Columbia Studios, New York · 9 February 1946
COLUMBIA Masterworks 72495-D (XCO 35830-1)

 

This is one of six releases currently available from the ANDaNTE collection, a panorama of the 20th century’s greatest performances grouped into four series, composers, operas, interpreters, and orchestras. Whereas the first two in part include comparative interpretations from the ‘essential repertoire…[providing] the listener with a unique learning curve’, Great Interpreters is dedicated to ‘exceptional artists whose unique performances of selected works have never before been heard together’. The orchestral series ‘consists of digitally remastered commercial recordings as well as previously unpublished archives’ from early days of recording to the present day. The other five sets are of Beethoven’s piano concertos, Schubert’s chamber music, the pianist Backhaus, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the conductor Stokowski. The CDs come in the currently fashionable book form and include an unaccredited essay from New Grove Dictionary (if I were Boris Schwarz I would be aggrieved, so I shall keep a watchful eye on my own articles in that learned magnum opus). ANDaNTE (yes that’s the way it’s printed) have set up andante.com as ‘the definitive resource for knowledge and information about classical music’ but I prefer the music itself. They have taken care with their 24-bit digital remastering process (CAP 440) and the results are fine with minimum hiss, accurate pitch, and careful equalization. They are indeed ‘landmark performances heard as never before’. Currently they sell at $64 but this is an introductory offer, so buy quickly.

Szigeti was an interesting artist for a variety of reasons; he was first and foremost an honest musician, totally uncompromising when it came to pandering to popular taste, which was itself often controlled by American impresarios. His playing was eloquent, not always technically as assured as his contemporary virtuosic colleagues, but he was an non-typecastable musician who saw the history of music as a continuum, who never got himself in what he called the ‘fossilized repertoire’, and works were written for him by Ysaÿe, Tansman, Rawsthorne, Casella, and Martin. He also championed the works of Busoni, Berg, Prokofiev, Bloch (who postponed the first performance of his violin concerto for a year to ensure Szigeti’s services), Stravinsky, and Bartok (whose Contrasts Szigeti created). The recordings date from the twenty years when he was at his peak, 1926-1946.

It all starts with Bach, however, and a fascinating account of a transcription of the D minor piano concerto, which works well until the cadenzas (when one misses the harmony of the piano writing), which, despite a tendency for Szigeti to try and speed up (or get away from) Fritz Stiedry at the helm of the orchestral accompaniment, augurs well. Tartini’s concerto (not conducted here but directed either by Szigeti or by the harpsichordist perhaps) is an arrangement of an arrangement but one that Szigeti clearly enjoys playing judging by the sweet tone and lyrical phrasing of his playing, but his style is always of the utmost taste. Much of this first CD consists of arrangements (the Largo of another Bach keyboard concerto particularly beautiful) including three movements from Warlock’s Capriol Suite given a performance of rugged sophistication in an interesting pairing with the pianist Nikita Magaloff. Another collaborator was fellow Hungarian pianist Andor Földes who then takes over, beginning with a pair of infectiously danceable Slavonic Dances by Dvorak with just enough schmaltz to raise a nostalgic smile. His natural sense of the idiomatic continues with a Hungarian Rhapsody (no sense of technical inferiority here) by his compatriot and, for two years, teacher Hubay, and then more of the same goulash by Kodaly and Brahms. Fellow Hungarian Anton Farkas takes over for short pieces by Milhaud and de Falla, Szigeti’s infusion of Spanish colour providing full-blooded, rough-edged virtuosity.

The Beethoven concerto is the first (1932) of Szigeti’s three recorded versions. Occasionally one wonders at Bruno Walter’s variable tempi but the orchestral sound is good, and with such a master at the helm there are inevitably magical moments. Szigeti’s view of the work is fluently phrased, if not always lustrous enough in its tonal variety. The impression given is of a player trying to burst from a shell of restraint, but the modified Joachim cadenza goes some way towards achieving this, and somehow by the Rondo you are aware that this is an account of impassioned grandeur. In the Mendelssohn it’s Beecham who partners him with his newly formed LPO. Ensemble is a bit hit and miss at times and the finale threatens to fall apart, but the feeling of spontaneous and enjoyed music-making comes across, Beecham has that way of appearing as a non-participating bystander until something alerts him to put in his pennyworth, and you notice it. It’s not all as casual as it seems. Szigeti’s input carries the same weight of personality, a genial approach, sweet-toned sound, a performance by a romantic but unsentimental interpreter. The filler here is the unaccompanied Caprice No.9 by Paganini, three minutes of a gradual build-up of fireworks, and in the ricochet bowing section you can hear every semiquaver bouncing off the floor, followed by spot-tuned harmonics on his Guarneri violin. It may be a piece of froth but his musical personality plunges its depths to reveal more content than an exercise in virtuosity alone.

The Beecham partnership resumes two years later (1935) with Prokofiev’s first concerto. This was music not only of his time but borne of the fruits of a close friendship with the composer when Szigeti gave the work an airing at the Prague International Festival of Contemporary Music (it had been written at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917). Szigeti was convinced that Prokofiev had a profound love for fairytales and cited many of the composer’s works such as the Love for Three Oranges, Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling etc as examples, and this ‘gave me a clue to the daydreaming expression of the "little boy listening to a story" feeling of the exposition’. His playing has a suitably dreamy start (it is marked sognando) and goes on to understate more than most the ‘grotesque, ironic, and sardonic elements in Prokofiev’s music’. Another Paganini Caprice follows (‘silk-underwear music as Virgil Thomson called it). Szigeti premiered the Bloch concerto on 15 December 1938 with the Cleveland Orchestra under Mitropoulos, but this is a live broadcast with the Concertgebouw under Mengelberg during the following year. Though allegedly based on native American themes there is an overtly Jewish association to this music which Szigeti plays with nothing short of fervour. The concluding item on this, probably the most fascinating of the four-disc set, is Bartok’s Contrasts in which his partners are clarinettist Benny Goodman and the composer himself (New York 1940) first played at Carnegie Hall on 9 January 1939, though it was only on 21 April 1940 before this trio of players performed the work in its final version, with an added middle movement. Szigeti had urged Goodman to commission the work from Bartok, and the clarinettist’s distinctive vibrato and jazz background is nowhere more evident than at the short cadenza at the end of the first movement. After the typical Bartok ‘night sounds’ of the slow movement (and beautifully rhapsodic playing from all three artists) the work concludes with an exciting fast dance; this track alone is a wonderful historic document of the playing of three fine musicians.

And so to the final disc which begins once again with the Baroque, this time a Handel violin sonata in which Szigeti is accompanied by the first of several pianists, Magaloff. It may not be authentic nor politically correct to say so, but Szigeti’s playing of Bach and Handel is vibrantly attractive, rhythmically energetic and utterly honest despite the odd glitch, generally the result of involved enthusiasm (for example the end of the second movement Allegro). Then the composers Brahms, Milhaud and Bloch are revisited. In Brahms’ third violin sonata he is partnered magnificently by Egon Petri, son of violinist Henri who owned Szigeti’s instrument before him. The performance is shaped by its variety of mood, beginning with a brooding, almost sinister first movement, followed by a simply stated Adagio and impassioned readings of the two prestos which form the second part of this lovely music. More miniatures by Milhaud and Jewish folk music by Bloch find a sympathetic interpreter in Szigeti, before we conclude with yet another composer-performer collaboration, this time in three works with Stravinsky as both piano accompanist and conductor, another valuable historical document (1945 and 1946). Somehow one feels that with Szigeti’s deeply intelligent curiosity and profound musicianship, coupled with the presence of the composer (as with the Bartok Contrasts) one is hearing not only the notes but also the spirit of the music, such as the character of a Cossack dance in Eclogue I which the composer confided to him during rehearsal as its inspiration. The Pastorale, completely unknown to this reviewer, is three minutes of utterly charming music in this arrangement for violin and wind quartet, after which Szigeti’s rendition of a Russian song from Mavra (the composer once again a sympathetic accompanist) substitutes the original vocal line with an equally lyrical ‘vocal’ sound on his instrument. It really is magical playing and one yearns for more.

This is a rich seam of performance and ANDaNTE are to be commended for producing such a wide variety of styles from Bach to Bloch, for combining familiar favourites such as the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos with relatively unknown music by Bartok and Stravinsky, but above all for choosing and then making such a comprehensive evaluation of that fine violinist Joseph Szigeti.

 

Christopher Fifield


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