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Itzhak Perlman rediscovered
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Caprices Op.1 Nos 1, 16 and 24
Paul BEN-HAIM (1897-1984)

Berceuse Sfaradite
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Navarra Op.33
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Sonata Op.1 No.15 in E
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Sonata Op.11 No.1 in E flat
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697 1764)

Sonata Op. 9 No.3 in D
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)

Nigun (Baal Shem No.2)
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Spanish Dance No.1 (from La Vide breve, arranged Fritz Kreisler)
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)

Le Ronde des Lutins Op.25
Itzhak Perlman (violin)
David Garvey (piano – except the Paganini Caprices)
Recorded New York, 1965
BMG-RCA 82876 62517-2 [63.18]

 

Perlman is the second violinist to be given the RCA Red Seal/BMG Rediscovered treatment; the first was Heifetz. Only one piece here has been previously released – the Sarasate – and everything else has lain in the vaults since Perlman first recorded these tracks for what was originally intended to be his first LP. In the end he went on to make a more high profile and glamorous recording of Sibelius and Prokofiev 2 with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony and his first violin and piano disc was made with Vladimir Ashkenazy. Nearly forty years have passed and it’s high time to savour the product of that first session, all the items of which were chosen by the violinist and in most of which he was accompanied by David Garvey.

I actually wish BMG had respected Perlman’s original raison d’etre – an Old School running order of Handel and Leclair and then the Hindemith and the fingerbusters to follow. Instead we open with the three unaccompanied Paganini Caprices and relax for the Ben-Haim, get jolted out of our seats by the Sarasate, then suffer the Handel, Hindemith and Leclair sonatas in that order (come on BMG get a bloody grip on yourselves) and the rest to follow. Hopeless programming – and who wants to programme your CD when you had Perlman in the first place to tell you what he wanted.

Spleen vented and what do we have? Most importantly we have the three sonatas – all are new to the Perlman discography and that’s a matter for rejoicing. The sound is excellent – little deterioration in the tapes or expert restorative work or both. Notes are by violinophile Eric Wen and the running time is pretty good with the disc housed in a book type cover. Perlman was just twenty when he went into the studio to record these pieces and was on the threshold of one of the great careers of the second half of the twentieth century. His arpeggios in the first Caprice are frighteningly good and his huskily toned projection of the Ben-Haim elevates it far beyond its otherwise merely pleasant profile. The Sarasate is terra cognita – buoyant and cocky with razor sharp harmonics. As for his Handel and Leclair, Perlman vests them with romanticised warmth, subtle changes of vibrato usage and an unashamedly patrician manner. He doesn’t stint the wit of the second movement Allegro of the Handel and doesn’t downplay the vibrant masculinity of the "Sarabande and Tambourin" from the Leclair – a conflation beloved of violinists before the Second World War who tended to omit the first two movements. His Hindemith makes one regret that he never turned to it in his maturity – he plays it with idiomatic conviction and the first movement especially falls to his confidence of the fanfare like rhetoric. His Bloch has apposite fervour and the finale is his Bazzini, driving, technically without blemish and subtly metrical (though maybe it could be a shade wittier).

This has been well worth the forty-year wait – the first, reclaimed recordings of the greatest fiddler of his generation, auspicious and brilliant.

Jonathan Woolf


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