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Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Liebesfreud
Slavonic Dances Nos 1 and 2 (Dvorak arr Kreisler)
Schon Rosmarin
La Gitana
Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven
Caprice Viennois
Malaguena in the style of Granados
Variations on a Theme of Corelli
Preghiera in the style of Martini
Allegretto in the style of Boccherini
Sicilienne and Rigaudon in the style of Francoeur
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani
Andantino in the style of Martini
La Precieuse in the style of Couperin

Slavonic Fantasie (DvořŠk-Kreisler)
Mischa Elman, violin
Joseph Seiger, piano
Recorded Manhattan Towers, New York June 1960 except last two pieces (October 1966)
VANGUARD CLASSICS OVC 8028 [62í49]

The first fourteen tracks date from a Vanguard session in 1960 and the last two from a late recording in 1966. This Kreisler album followed Mischa Elmanís Jubilee Album of 1959 and was to be followed by other records of solo pieces as well as concerto performances; a Khachaturian concerto in Vienna was spicy and intriguing repertoire for Elman, though one should never forget that he was dedicatee of a Martinu Concerto (the premiere is fortunately preserved on Music and Arts). Vanguardís producer Seymour Solomon had faith in Elman when others had long grown tired of the ageing violinist in favour of younger talents and itís entirely to Vanguardís credit that they gave Elman the opportunity to commit so much to disc. No Elman disc is without interest of some kind and few of these Vanguards are devoid either of points of contention.

The deterioration in manual dexterity and concomitant technical and tonal qualities afflicts most violinists in their sixties but this is especially so in the case of Elman where the disparity between the voluptuous sensuality of his tone in the teens and twenties of the century and the increasingly strained and starved tonal resources of the now septuagenarian violinist are immediately apparent. In Liebesfreud he is affectionate but with very deliberate articulation and somewhat point making. The Slavonic Dance No 2 in the DvořŠk-Kreisler arrangement is again solid in tempo but also accompanied by some still luscious sound and glamorous finger position changes. He aspires to sultry playing in La Gitana but the molten core is no longer there and at this tempo the vital narrative is dissipated not intensified and as a result the piece emerges as enervated and unvital. The Beethoven Rondino was dedicated by Kreisler to Elman and the dedicatee plays it with directness and simplicity but he makes a surprising meal of the phrasing in Caprice Viennois Ė itís not at all spicy, very slow, and reluctant to indulge sensuality. The Malaguena in the style of Granados is new to the Elman discography, having never before been issued. Itís good to have, of course, but not outstanding. His passagework in the Corelli Variations is laborious and there are some extraneous bowing noises in the restatement of the theme but in spite of all these limitations Elmanís playing retains a patrician, rather reserved, charm that I find very attractive. He puts on the mute for the Preghiera for 3Ĺ minutes of raptly devotional playing whereas the Sicilienne episode of the Sicilienne and Rigaudon is unfortunately rather penny-plain and his subsequent G string passage rather predictable and gestural and more Elman than Kreisler. In the Praeludium and Allegro Elman breaks the melodic line and elevates incident above architecture, something of a besetting feature of aspects of his playing, and one that damages the piece beyond saving. It begins in a very detached manner, very, very slow and didactic, with an unconvincing attempt at internal drama, altogether overblown and disappointing. The Andantino in the style of Martini is another previously unreleased performance Ė using the mute again he is more than a little ponderous. The two final pieces yield 1966 performances; the acoustical change is palpable. We can now hear the increasing deterioration of the violinistís tone and technique Ė there is an astringency to the sound that sends one back to those Victors of a half-century before with gratitude for all that this remarkable musician had achieved in his long life.

Jonathan Woolf


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