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Jascha Heifetz: Hora Staccato and other favourites
Grigoras DINICU (1889 – 1949) Hora Staccato (1906); Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 – 1921) Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor for violin and orchestra op. 28 (1863); Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854 – 1925) Guitarre Op. 45 No. 2 (arr. Sarasate); Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946) Spanish Dance No. 1 (from La Vida Breve) (1913) (arr. Kreisler); Pablo SARASATE (1844 – 1908) Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) for violin and orchestra Op. 20 No. 1 (1878); Antonio BAZZINI (1818 – 1897) La Ronde des Lutins – scherzo fantastique for violin and piano Op. 25 (1852); Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835 – 1880) Polonaise Brillante No. 1 in D for violin and piano Op. 4 (1853); Camille SAINT-SAËNS Havanaise in E for violin and orchestra Op. 83 (1887); Manuel De FALLA Jota (Seven Popular Spanish Songs No. 4 (1915) (arr. Kochanski); Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897 – 1957) Much Ado About Nothing – incidental music (1920) Garden Scene – Holzapfel und Schlehwein; Joseph ACHRON (1886 – 1943) Hebrew Melody for violin and piano Op. 33 (1911); Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 – 1953) Gavotta from Four Pieces for piano Op. 32 No. 3 (1918) (arr. Heifetz) – March in F minor from Ten Pieces for piano Op. 12 No. 1 (1906) (arr. Heifetz); Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943) Daisies from Six Songs Op. 38 No. 3 (1916) (arr. Heifetz) – Oriental Sketch in B flat for piano (1917) (arr. Heifetz); William KROLL (1901 – 1980) Banjo And Fiddle; Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875) / Franz WAXMAN (1906 – 1967) Carmen Fantasia for violin and orchestra on themes from Bizet’s 1875 opera (1946)
Jascha Heifetz (violin), Emanuel Bay (piano) (1, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12 – 17), Arpad Sandor (piano) (3, 11), London Philharmonic Orchestra/John Barbirolli (2), London Symphony Orchestra/John Barbirolli (5, 8), RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Donald Voorhees
Recorded in London, Hollywood and New York 1934 – 1947.
LIVING ERA CLASSICS AJC 8553 [77:16]

 

 

If you for some reason want to have only one CD with violin music in your collection this might be the one to choose. It contains some of the most perfect and brilliant violin playing ever recorded!

“A collection of ditties? Recorded 60 – 70 years ago? Why?”

I can hear the objections – and ditties they are, some of these pieces ... but the way they are played! And it is not only a question of technique, even if Heifetz’s armoury of technical accomplishment is unlimited. David Patmore’s interesting text finishes with a quotation from Carl Flesch who said: “There has hardly been any other violinist who has come closer to perfection”, and you can pick any track on this disc to find proof of that: his perfect intonation, the obvious ease with which he plays even the trickiest passage, his beautiful tone, his rhythmic precision (try track 14 – the F minor march by Prokofiev, where he also gives an ample demonstration of his impeccable double-stopping), his flageolets (listen to his Korngold), his superior trill (track 15, the Rachmaninov song which Heifetz plays in his own arrangement). On every track there is evidence of his ability to play even the softest nuance without loss of tonal quality. “OK. Heifetz was a technical wizard” Mr Grumble mutters, “but he had no heart. Everything is ice-cold!” Dear Mr Grumble, this is an old myth that has to be done with once and for all. You need only go to track 12 on this disc, Achron’s wonderful Hebrew Melody, and who can complain of lack of warmth there? And the Garden Scene from Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing music: no feeling?

These last-mentioned pieces are actually a lot more than mere ditties and the disc also contains four substantial works for violin and orchestra which are definitely highly regarded standard works, and the way he plays the two Saint-Saens pieces! I have long admired them, and also the Sarasate Zigeunerweisen in an old recording with the Argentinian violinist Riccardo Odnoposoff, too little known I must say, but superlatively as he plays them he has to yield to Heifetz on almost every point of interpretation. The Carmen Fantasia by Franz Waxman, written for and premiered by Heifetz if I remember correctly, is a worthy finale to this long recital, and there is a great deal of warmth in his playing here also, besides all the expected fireworks.

I could write at length about all the other pieces as well but that would make this an over-long review and deter you from running to the nearest record store to acquire this budget-priced disc before all your neighbours, who have also seen this review, will have bought the whole stock. Let me just mention two items:

De Falla’s Spanish Dance is played in Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement and it is interesting to compare Heifetz with Kreisler’s own recording. Kreisler was of course famous for his warm playing an this is very obvious in his 1938 recording with Franz Rupp. By then Kreisler was over 60 and had long since stopped practising, he had never been a true virtuoso but instead cultivated his very personal Viennese charm and a “sweet” tone with much vibrato and glissandos. His playing in the Spanish Dance is indeed sweet and charming but also dangerously close to over-sentimental. Heifetz, recorded three years before Kreisler, is rhythmically more precise and avoids sentimentality through his more brilliant tone and his lightness – and there is no lack of warmth.

Maybe the track that shows Heifetz in all his glory is that “ditty” Banjo And Fiddle (the last track but one). “Weightlessness” is the only appropriate word for his playing here. One gets the feeling that even Heifetz’s feet are an inch or two above the floor.

“All right! I give in!” I can hear Mr Grumble croaking, “But the sound quality? These are, after all, crackly old shellacs.” And I am afraid I have to refute Mr Grumble on this point too. These are HMVs and RCA Victors recorded with the best available technical equipment available at the time and transferred and restored with love and care by David Lennick and Graham Newton, making them come up fresh as paint. Of course they are mono and of course you hear at once that they were not made yesterday, not even yesteryear, but there is nothing to detract the listener from what is most important: the playing. The piano is also very well reproduced (and very well played, mostly by Heifetz’ long-standing music partner Emanuel Bay). Even the orchestral items are fully acceptable, even to modern ears and it has to be said that the Carmen Fantasia is very vividly recorded. The documentation is exemplary with matrix-numbers and catalogue-numbers for every item and recording dates.

There we are. End of review. Now grab your overcoat, Mr Grumble and everybody else, and run down to the store. There may still be a copy left.

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

 

 

 

 



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