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Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor Op. 102 (1887)
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82 (1904)
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)

Scottish Fantasy Op. 46 (1880)
Jascha Heifetz (violin) with
Emanuel Feuermann (cello) and Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy (Brahms) recorded in December 1939
LPO/John Barbirolli (Glazunov) recorded in March 1934
RCA Victor Orchestra/William Steinberg (Bruch) recorded in September 1947
NAXOS 8.110940 [74.58]


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Of the Naxos Heifetz Concerto series, available singly or in a tempting box, this one at least is in the highest sense self-recommending. Heifetz recorded each work here twice during his career and in the cases of the Glazunov and Bruch these earlier recordings are much to be preferred. Whilst there are perhaps more complex issues involved in the Brahms Double there are still strong grounds for preferring this Feuermann traversal to the later one with Piatigorsky not least because it is one of the more strikingly intense string collaborations ever made. There’s little real need to rehearse the virtues of each performance, classics of the discography as they are, except to add that the transfers are excellent and that the disc serves as absolute refutation, if such should still be necessary after all this time, of Heifetz’s alleged metallic coldness.

If you have the 1963 RCA Victor/Hendl Glazunov you will miss an extra level of expressive intensity as well as Barbirolli’s richly burnished contribution. Heifetz’s nobility of utterance, his absolute technical eloquence here, his glittering pizzicati and harmonics are all non-pareil. Some of course swear by Milstein in this work and his is a superb traversal – there’s room for both, indeed for others. But for me the extra tonal richness Heifetz brings and the level of orchestral sophistication involved, the power and apparent spontaneity are all highly memorable. Try the wind counterpoint and the jaw dropping Heifetz cadenza in the Tempo primo section (track 3). In the Bruch his vibrato usage is worthy of an eight page technical treatise. The speed of it, the variety of it and the colour evoked by it are all bewitching. The rapt sincerity of his playing in the transition from Andante to Andante sostenuto is stunning. The finger position changes in which he indulges are apposite and expressive. His slides and inflexions and his memorable tone have seldom sounded so utterly beautiful. Let’s forgive him a few of the cuts he makes. Of contemporary players only Perlman makes this work live in anything like the same way. The two great string players turn in a combustible performance in the Brahms. The element of theatre is sometimes perilously near – neither musician was known for his humility, personal or musical – and there are moments when there are things missed, deeper things not fully explored, tonal qualities sometimes taking precedence over expressive depth. Still, as string playing it is remarkable.

These are three commanding performances and classics of the literature in a well transferred disc all revealing much of Heifetz’s matchless eloquence.

Jonathan Woolf

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