> Bach Violin Concertos Menuhin 8110965 [CH]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto no. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 (1), Violin Concerto no. 2 in E, BWV 1042 (2), Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Strings, BWV 1043 (3), Sonata for Solo Violin no. 3 in A minor, BWV 1003: Adagio (4)
Yehudi Menuhin (violin), George Enescu (violin) (3), Paris Symphony Orchestra (1-3)/George Enescu (1, 2), Pierre Monteux (3)
Recorded in Paris, 21.2.1936 (1), 24.6.1933 (2), 4.6.1932 (3, 4)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110965 [54.21]
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The hero of the Double Concerto is in some ways Pierre Monteux. As we saw in the recent reissue of his Orfeo ed Euridice (BMG 09026 63534 2; ruined, alas, by Risë Stevensís old battleaxe of an Orfeo), his natural tendency to clear textures, light basses, not too much legato and springy rhythms, produced results in older music which are still acceptable today. The modern listener will note the lack of a continuo instrument, but since in 1932 that would probably have meant a piano, maybe things are better as they are. 16-year-old Menuhin and his revered teacher fit in with the generally clean-limbed approach (the Largo ma non tanto is less romantic than some performers give us even today).

Unfortunately the same orchestra under Enescu give us Bach as he was wont to be given those days. Fine musician as he was, he is unable to do anything about the heavy basses, the slogging rhythms and the dense textures deriving from too much legato.

Still, the main point here is Menuhin, and here I have to register a certain surprise. Even at this relatively tender age, the ability of Menuhinís tone, without any perhaps ostensible qualities of brilliance, depth, warmth or whatever, somehow to "ennoble" the classics with its simple yet "spiritual" naturalness, had already been noted by his contemporaries, yet all I hear in these performances is well-schooled playing. It is good that he had already evolved a style which would still be heard as acceptable Bach playing to the end of his career, but there is no doubt that in the Ď50s and Ď60s (before nerves began to compromise his technical delivery) his playing revealed much more fully that spirituality which is at the root of his legend.

As a good modern instruments version of the three concertos, Menuhinís Bath Festival recordings are still in the running. More than a myth, these first recordings simply provide a pleasant snapshot of his career at that moment.

Good transfers by Ward Marston, informative notes by Tully Potter. Among other things, Potter tells us that Adolf Busch was first approached as Menuhinís partner for the Double Concerto. He declined, saying that he always put artistic considerations before commercial ones and it was too early for Menuhin to record the work. This is the paradox of recorded music. We can hear that Busch was right; but how nice that we can hear this for ourselves.

Christopher Howell


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