> Greatest Violin Encores Pearl [JW]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Greatest Violin Encores
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Etude-Caprice in A minor
Scherzo Tarantelle
Polonaise brillante

Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Caprice Op 1 No 24

Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)

Le Ronde des Lutins

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Meditation

Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Carmen Fantasia
Romanza Andaluza
Zapateado
Zigeunerweisen

Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)

Sevillanas

Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Liebesfreud
Rondino on a theme of Beethoven

Josef SUK (1874-1935)

Burleska

Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)

Sonata in D major Op 1 No 13 – Allegro

Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne No 8 Op 27 No 2

Nicolai RIMSKY KORSAKOV (1844-1908)

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)

Variations on a theme of Corelli

Zino Francescatti, Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Ruggiero Ricci, Efrem Zimbalist, Fritz Kreisler, Isaac Stern, Mischa Elman. With various accompanists.
Recorded 1926-46
PEARL GEM 0127 [75.21] Midprice


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Eight violinists, eighteen scintillating encores or near encores (I don’t think the Handel Sonata allegro is quite the same thing). The lion’s share - nine - goes to the two fabulous Russians, Heifetz and Milstein, with Auer-pupil Zimbalist, suave Francescatti and Isaac Stern all with two each. There are single examples of the art of Kreisler, Ricci and Elman. Of the galaxy of violinistic talent only Ruggiero Ricci is still alive and has recently (2002) retired from the concert stage. Pearl’s immensely valuable 'Recorded Violinists' sets offer a chronological conspectus of violin playing on record, a resource of lasting value. Here we have a lighter and more popular disc which still allows one the privilege of hearing stellar talents in fascinating conjunction.

Zino Francescatti gives a barely perceptible twitch in his Wieniawski – such suave ease of execution and in his Tartini, in his own arrangement (many of these pieces are arrangements) his is robust but supremely elegant. In Suk’s Burleska Ruggiero Ricci is accompanied by his own teacher, the celebrated Louis Persinger, who had performed the same role on disc for another of his star pupils, Yehudi Menuhin. It’s one of Ricci’s earliest discs. He was twenty and in particularly vibrant and fruity form. With Efrem Zimbalist we come to the juxtapositions that cast interesting light on the technical and expressive armouries of individual musicians. Zimbalist has been something of a battleground over the years. Lauded as one of the great triumvirate of Auer pupils – with Heifetz and Elman – he was picked apart in Carl Flesch’s memoirs and Flesch’s view has, by and large, remained the accepted norm ever since. Sandwiched on this disc between Milstein’s coruscating Wieniawski Scherzo Tarantelle (listen to those fabulously quick slides) and Heifetz’s Albeniz and Zimbalist rather withers. He has a distinctly slow – bedevillingly slow – vibrato that limits his tone colouration but what he does possess is pellucid upper strings and a still excellent technique. He doesn’t really possess the theatricality for Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasia or Zigeunerweisen but I would rather hear him in a Sonata than Toscha Seidel (Flesch’s suggested replacement in the Great Three). Stern is represented by a scrupulously clean Handel – not as exciting or involving as Szigeti but attractive – and by his Flight of the Bumble Bee which is the only track without piano accompaniment; instead Franz Waxman conducts an orchestra in his own arrangement – pretty stunning all round. Elman makes a valued appearance in a Wilhelmj arranged Chopin Nocturne; luscious with dramatic portamenti and with his molten lower strings still intact in 1930 who will object to the meretricious arrangement when the playing is so involving? Kreisler plays his own Liebesfreud from 1926 – rather too much hiss on this disc; about the only occasion it remotely disturbed me. Which leaves Milstein and Heifetz. The former is cool in Massenet, somewhat aloof and unengaged, but makes up for it with some sumptuous lyric expressivity amongst the devilry of Wieniawski’s Scherzo Tarantelle. He is immaculate in Sarasate and attractively husky voiced in the Kreisler. As for Heifetz it is frightening to hear the dramatic incision of his Paganini much less the fast but flexible Bazzini with superbly judged rubato and unmistakeable Heifetz fingerprints. The Wieniawski Polonaise Brillante is slashing and piquant and his pizzicatos in Sarasate’s Zapateado jaw dropping.

Excellent transfers – Kreisler aside – and with notes by Tully Potter this is a formidably exciting disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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