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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 (1878)
Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957)

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (1903)
Itzhak Perlman, (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf.
No recording information given with the disc ADD
RCA RED SEAL 82876 59419 2 [63’13"]

Another budget priced recording from BMG (RCA) archives, presented in a very attractive red and black ‘family’ colour scheme. This recording was made by Perlman when he was under contract to RCA in the days before he moved to EMI. It will be obvious to any keen collector of Perlman’s performances that this disc was recorded before the violinist got it into his head that the only way to record a concerto was with the soloist’s instrument close up to the microphone, and the orchestra located in another room. This is fine if all you want to do is listen to the soloist, but I am sure if composers’ had wished their works to sound like this, then they wouldn’t have bothered to create the orchestral parts of their works in the first place.

Perlman’s virtuosity in these highly complex, romantic masterpieces is well known, and suffice to say he delivers the goods immaculately here as in many of his other recordings. What we need to decide is whether the package is sufficiently attractive to make you want to go out and buy this disc. Well, a lot will depend upon whether you already have, or specifically want this coupling, or whether you want it as another recording to add to your collection.

As an only disc in a collection, there are indeed finer performances to be had. In the Tchaikovsky for instance there is Heifetz, also on RCA, Kogan on EMI, and Vengerov on Teldec to name just a few. Similarly, one would have to go a long way to find a finer performance than Oistrakh or Mutter on BMG or EMI and DG respectively for the Sibelius concerto.

As an alternative disc in a collection, the present disc is fine as the performances are first rate, and the orchestral backdrop is focused well, and recorded in a sympathetic acoustic (presumably Symphony Hall in Boston) and Leinsdorf is much more than competent as an accompanist. The Boston Symphony, although not as alive as when they were playing for Charles Munch or Pierre Monteux, are still the ensemble that we love in this repertoire.

One of the features I like about these recordings is the relative absence of finger-board noise on the violin. This is partly to do with the not so close balancing of the soloist, but Perlman has never suffered this fault particularly seriously.

The Tchaikovsky concerto has the usual cuts which were common at the time of this recording, but this should not trouble fans of this violinist particularly, unless you are a completist nut. The absence of the full score is more than compensated for by the passion of Perlman’s playing and the high quality of both accompaniment and recording quality.

The Sibelius Concerto is particularly fine with a strongly rhythmic flavour to it, particularly in the finale, which is the only movement on the disc where soloist makes a very few ugly sounds, but in the excitement these may be completely forgiven. The Boston orchestra plays to the manner born, and provides a superb backing to their relatively young artist.

I can recommend this issue with confidence.

John Phillips


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