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Nathan Milstein (violin)
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 53 (1880)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati, recorded 1951
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Adagio in E major K261 (1776)
Rondo in C major K373 (1781)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann, recorded 1950
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Violin Concerto in A minor Op 82 (1904)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg, recorded 1949
NAXOS 8.110975 [59.46]


As Tully Potter rightly says in his sleeve-note this issue is instructive in giving us Milstein’s first recorded thoughts in two concertos that were far better known in their early LP incarnations. The Dvořák LP was with Steinberg for Capitol. Here we have it with Dorati in Minneapolis in 1951 and the Glazunov with the RCA Victor Symphony under Steinberg in 1949. The Glazunov enjoyed greater popularity in the LP remake, once more with Steinberg but this time conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony.

In addition to the Dorati and Steinberg-led Dvořák there is an extant live performance now on Music & Arts with the Kölner Gürzenich Orchestra conducted by Paul Kletzki dating from September 1956 and the 1960s traversal with the New Philharmonia and de Burgos (1966 to be exact), one year before the Pittsburgh Glazunov. Confusing? Yes, but the long and short of it is that we now have four examples of Milstein’s Dvořák from a sixteen year period in which he was pretty much at his prime. The greatest differences in Milstein’s performances of the concerto were always matters of degree; the degree of lyrical expansion in the opening movement and the degree to which he tightened or released the expressive potential of the Adagio. Here he takes somewhat more time over the opening movement than with Steinberg – taking the kind of tempo and the kind of inflections that he made in the live Kletzki performance. Those tonal piquancies and colouristic devices were always within Milstein’s sovereign command and the dancing lightness of his finale here is as infectious as any of his other performances.

The Glazunov is marvellously fluent and aristocratic. His performance was never as glamorously personalised as Heifetz’s but the finale of this 1949 recording certainly brings out the festive joy as few others have done. Milstein plays dead centre of the note and sweeps through the eighteen-minute work with invincible élan; there really is very little to choose between his recordings of the work – one we should remember he had played to the admiring composer (in Petrograd, as was, with the Persimfans orchestra). Again he recorded the Glazunov with de Burgos in London in 1966 (setting down his interpretation pretty much once a decade).

The remaining Mozart pieces are more than mere makeweights. Milstein’s Mozart could be on occasion unengaged – neither he nor Heifetz particularly excelled in the repertoire – but his Adagio in E major is sweet and just this side of cloying and the Rondo pert and successful.

The transfers have been successfully managed though there seems to be some kind of ambient noise in the slow movement of the Dvořák – is it noise suppression? Try 1.30 into the movement. Otherwise this is a judiciously chosen selection of mid-period Milstein.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Colin Clarke


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