Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Huberman in Recital
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Sonata in No. 1 in G Op. 78 (1878-79)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Partita in D minor BWV 1004 (1720)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Fantasy in C D934 (1827)
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Romanza Andaluza Op. 22 No. 1 (1878-82)
Bronislaw Huberman (violin)
Boris Roubakine (piano)
Unknown pianist (maybe Siegfried Schulze) in the Sarasate
Recorded live in New York 1936-44
ARBITER 105 [79.29]


For so elite – if controversial – a musician Huberman’s recordings are relatively sparse. Arbiter has therefore put us in their debt by releasing a disc that expands his discography by including the Brahms sonata in G – he’d famously played the Concerto as a boy in the presence of the composer - and the Schubert Fantasie. And some idea of his overwhelmingly involving Bach can be gauged from the Partita in D minor which has survived albeit in less than perfect sound. We should be grateful for the unsparing efforts of Seth Winner who worked on the glass-based acetates, subsequently copied onto tape. The Bach was made on a lacquer.

Huberman was one of the most individual of violinists and one who still divides critical opinion. His Brahms (New York, April 1943) is an immensely generous performance but as ever critical debate will turn to his tonal qualities. I find myself swept up by Huberman even as I register doubt and objections. So for example his tone sounds thin, and frequently very dry, the vibrato unwarmed, his portamenti in the opening movement excessive and exaggerated in the interests of maximal emotive impression. The dynamics are in a constant, vastly entertaining and meaningful sense of flux – whether they are convincing is another matter - and he does once or twice attack from under the note. There are some minor technical problems but in the main his left hand is under firm control. What will take a deal of getting used to (for those unfamiliar with Huberman) is the problematical and anachronistically employed vibrato usage – and the expressive whitening, a sudden bleaching, of tone in which he engages. For all that this is decidedly not my idea of a forward looking twentieth century violinist I cannot help but admit that the latent power and seriousness of his conception has powerful attractions. And his diminuendo on the last phrase of the first movement is striking indeed. In the second movement he manages to etch deep meaning from within the text – the means, tonal and otherwise by which he does so are problematical but somewhat beside the point – as he develops an unstoppable, almost oratorical grandeur. At moments like this one can understand the near adulatory appeal of Huberman in central Europe (where he was especially admired). There is a fusion of transcendence and philosophic seriousness difficult to resist. It’s true that his tone remains unwarmed and where vibrato is applied it is not uniform and continuous (though Huberman was a near contemporary of Kreisler he never really absorbed Kreisler’s modernising trends in that respect). Nevertheless Boris Roubakine plays with witty charm and Huberman’s phrasal elasticity generates an undeniable nobility and grandeur of expression. It should be noted that there is a little damage on the acetates from about 5.20 onwards, some pitch fluctuation as well but it’s temporary and has been limited.

The Bach Partita is an especially valuable survival, dating from December 1942. He’d recorded the Concertos in A and in E with the Vienna Philharmonic and Dobrowen on a single day in 1934 and had recorded a few isolated movements from the Sonatas and Partitas but this Partita (with the Chaconne) - although it’s made a commercial appearance before - is intensely interesting. The sound is poorer than the Brahms and there are some swishes but we can still hear a great deal and listen through the impediments to the heart of Huberman’s performance. His vibrato in the Courante is slow and very wide and especially employed as a climactic expressive device, and at paragraphal or phrase endings - rather like a monumental full stop. But there is wonderful clarity of voicings and he opens the Sarabande in powerfully dramatic fashion, taking the movement by the scruff of its neck; notes positively leap from the grooves. As for the Chaconne it is once more a question of greater architectural and emotive issues taking precedence over niceties of bowing or vibrato usage. Those who think that, in William Primrose’s words, Huberman "scratches abominably" will find ample documentary evidence to support the charge. Those, equally, who revere his magnetic drive, will use these performances as evidence for the defence, should such be necessary.

In the extremely difficult Schubert Fantasie – a graveyard for the unwary duo – his and Roubakine’s sagacity is fully developed. Whilst I admired the contours of the performance and the exceptional control exercised by both men there were times when I wasn’t able, fully, to reconcile romantic impress with the dictates of the structure. The on/off vibrato usage and the occasionally desiccated tone – this performance dates from a concert in January 1944 – are not ultimately to the work’s advantage. Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza is a part of his accepted commercial discography (he recorded it twice, in 1924 acoustically and again in 1930, both times with Siegfried Schulze) and here the pianist is unidentified (though it might be Schulze). It’s the earliest item here by far, recorded in April 1936, but in good sound. This heats up very nicely indeed and is on balance the best of the now extant recordings. The endemically slow and wide vibrato is no hindrance here to some marvellous theatricality and panache.

This is a release of striking importance to those interested in the development of violin playing in the twentieth century. The good notes are by Allan Evans who cites revealing comments made by Felix Galimir; the transfers are surely of pretty optimum quality. Striking then and exciting too, revealing an indelible talent whose live performances take on renewed almost miraculous life here.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Northern Flowers
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

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.