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Harold Moores

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (1806) [37’49].
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) [24’01].

Jascha Heifetz (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch.
Rec. Symphony Hall, Boston, on November 27th-28th, 1955 (Beethoven) and February 23rd & 25th, 1959 (Mendelssohn). ADD
RCA RED SEAL LIVING STEREO SACD 82876 61391 2 [62’05]

There is certainly no chance of Beethoven’s extended first movement to his Violin Concerto sprawling under Heifetz’s fingers. His famed technique fully intact, and with Munch his willing Leporello, Heifetz unleashes a remarkably fiery view of this concerto. Perhaps that is reflected in his choice of cadenza (Auer/Heifetz), a cadenza that marries display, conceit, drama and virtuosic nonchalance in equal measure. True, perhaps he does not always let the music breathe where expected, but this may be because he’s saving the more interior emotions for the Larghetto. Again, here, the speed may be faster than expected (but it is after all Larghetto, not Largo) but this really is a meeting of minds. Heifetz soliloquises marvellously towards the end before embarking on a suave finale. There is an unfortunate drop in tension towards the end, and Heifetz is markedly too forward around the bassoon tune (around 3’30) but those caveats apart this is a magnificent reading. The cadenza in the finale is Joachim/Heifetz.

Mendelssohn takes less well to driven performances, yet it has to be admitted there is real excitement here that one rarely finds elsewhere. The ‘molto appassionato’ part of the first movement directive is taken at face value, to great effect. Heifetz reminds us of his knack of making the cadenza a highpoint musically as well as technically (not many musicians can claim this). The slow movement is a real andante, marked by a refusal to dawdle. Heifetz plays as if improvising (and trace of abrasive tone) and the entire seven minutes flows as if in one breath. The bridge passage between the last two movements (an ‘Allegretto non troppo’) is most effective, acting as a foil for the high-jinks of the Allegro molto vivace. And very lively it is, too, with all parties concerned exhibiting quicksilver responses. A vital rhythmic awareness permeates every bar.

One of the highlights of this series.

Colin Clarke

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