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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53a (1880) [29’47].
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Adagio in E, K261b (1776) [7’26]. Rondo in C, K373b (1781) [4’57].
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82c (1904) [18’23].
Nathan Milstein (violin)
aMinneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti; RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/bVladimir Golschmann, cWilliam Steinberg.
From RCA Victor aLM-1147, bLM-1064, 49-0500-02; rec. at aNorthrop Auditorium, Minneapolis on March 4th, 1951, Manhattan Center, New York on bMarch 29th, 1950 and cFebruary 19th, 1949. ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110975 [59’46]

Bravo to Naxos for this well-designed programme. Two Romantic A minor Violin Concertos frame some charming Mozart.

Tully Potter’s booklet notes contextualise and trace the history of the various recordings (precious little on the works themselves, though, but that was probably Potter’s brief). The legendary Milstein gives massively involving performances of the two major works on this disc – I dare say nobody will be disappointed. Mark Obert-Thorn’s talents for restoration are once more showcased for the sound is intimate and clear throughout.

Dvořák’s Violin Concerto is a masterpiece, as Akiko Suwanai memorably reminded us all a couple of years ago on Philips ( Milstein also clearly believes in the work, and his advocacy comes across viscerally in this performance (and Doráti is clearly on the same wavelength – the orchestra really goes for it, too). This response clearly complements Suwanai’s on one’s shelves. Milstein does not indulge too much in sweetness in the Adagio, rather he illuminates the interior depth of the music, forcing the joyous finale into relief. Foot-tappingly infectious, there is still an undercurrent of urgency that propels the music headlong to its close (here almost brutal in effect).

Amazingly, this recording was apparently not originally issued in Britain. The remastering engineer (‘Audio Restoration Producer’, as Naxos put it) is Mark Obert-Thorn, and his work is exemplary in all respects. Orchestral detail comes over remarkably clearly.

Glazunov’s beautiful concerto again benefits from Milstein’s evident belief and affection (he actually played this work under the composer’s own baton). Listen to the deep-throated tone of the very opening, or the way Glazunov’s free-flow of invention sounds almost improvised on the spot. The Andante sostenuto is emotive without, thankfully, any over-milking, but nothing that has gone before can prepare one for the astonishing cadenza. What stopping, what beauty in the higher register!. It is heart-stopping stuff.

True, Milstein’s remake with the Pittsburgh Orchestra has outshone this version over the years, but that makes it all the more urgent to hear this 1949 performance.

The Mozart items (separators between the concertos) very clearly come from another era. The old-style orchestra (Golschmann at the helm this time) is indeed turgid, but it cannot rob Milstein of his sweetness in the E major Adagio. The C major Rondo is delightful, light and infectious.

Very highly recommended indeed from all angles.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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