£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


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    



BUY NOW 

  AmazonUS


Mischa Elman

The Art of Mischa Elman
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Slavonic Rhapsody
La Precieuse
Peter I TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Russian Dance Op 40 No 10
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

La plus que lente
Christopher Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Largo
William KROLL (1901-1980)

Juanita
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)

From San Domingo
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)

From My Homeland No 2
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Berceuse
Cesar ESPEJO

Airs Tziganes
Mischa Elman, violin
Joseph Seiger, piano
Recorded New York 1966
VANGUARD CLASSICS SVC-126 [47í36]

Mischa Elman enjoyed some triumphs during 1966. He had been his usual spirited and combustible self in interviews, lambasting ugly concert halls, academic violin playing and cosy relationships between record companies, soloists and orchestras who sought to promote their own interests. But critics, who once routinely scoffed at the supposedly dinosauric posturing of the seventy-six year old veteran, now tempered their strictures with a wistful admiration; his baroque and classical stylistic impulses may be unacceptable but there was, to them, a nobility that coursed through his playing still. An era in which it mattered much less what was played than who was playing it, was coming to an end.

In October that year Elman went to the Vanguard studios in New York, with his accompanist of fifteen years, Joseph Seiger, to make what proved to be his last recordings. It was a successor to his Jubilee Album, which had been something of a success. He recorded ten pieces from his repertoire, in the main a wide-ranging selection of late Romantic and twentieth century pieces, variously lissom, ethereal, full of panache and virtuosity. In truth though, Elmanís fires had slacked long before. His left hand had ceased to be as mobile as it once had been, causing ruptures rhythmically and causing his interpretations, never the fleetest anyway, to slow inordinately as a result. His right arm, once one of the wonders of the violinistic world, was also simply incapable of reproducing the miracles of his youth when, for a brief period, no more than a decade, he had been one of the worldís indisputably stellar musicians.

In the Kreisler confection on DvořŠkís themes, the Slavonic Fantasie, the fatally slackening left hand and the diminishment of his tonal lustre, that once volcanic throb, are all too prominently audible. There are however things still to savour, along with the inevitable signs of violinistic and motoric decay. He is subtle and manages to maintain a reasonable line in the Debussy whilst in the Gluck, arranged by Ries, though there is some thinning tone, occasionally strained, it is so romantically and vocally phrased, so expressive and with such a characteristically quick and unmistakable Elman slide, that itís worth listening to his playing simply to apprehend the use to which he puts melodic contours. In the Smetana he simply canít compete with younger, faster, more virtuosic violinists. Itís slow and laboured and though affectionate the lyric intensity he would, forty years earlier, have vested in the piece is pretty much gone. In the Faure there is nothing of Thibaudís fleetness and eroticism, nothing of the Frenchmanís suavity either; Elman is much more stolid, taking an inordinate amount of time to spin the Berceuse to a conclusion. In Kreislerís La Precieuse there are some quirky slides and rather heavily emphatic playing and in the Espejo, though engaging, we can hear the slackening of the violinistís lower strings.

The LP was issued in the spring of 1967, posthumously. Elman has passed into violinistic history but not, thankfully, discographic history. One could hardly recommend this CD reissue for its intrinsic virtues. Itís a study in decline, the Last Testament of a once great individualist. But to those who appreciate such things and can listen beyond the frailties there is still a compelling nobility of utterance to his playing and we can hear haunting the disc the ghostly patina of his youthful genius.

Jonathan Woolf

 


Return to Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.