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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in D minor (1822) [23.28] (1)
Violin Concerto in E minor (1844) [27.15] (2)
Max BRUCH (1838Ė1920)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (1867) [22.47] (3)
Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
RCA Victor String Orchestra/Yehudi Menuhin (1)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (2)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (3)
rec. 6th February 1952, New York (1); 25th, 26th May 1952, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin (2); 19th January 1951, Symphony Hall, Boston (3)
NAXOS 8.110991 [73.31]

Yehudi Menuhin made four recordings of Mendelssohnís Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64. His first was made in the 1930s and the second in 1953 (when he was 37). This 1953 recording is the centre-piece of this new disc devoted to Menuhinís art. His silvery tones and elegant line were just made for Mendelssohn. He is well supported by Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This is certainly not big-band bombastic Mendelssohn, they follow Menuhin; both orchestra and soloist turn in a beautifully shaped first movement, elegantly floated. In an age when large orchestras are going out of fashion in much repertoire, is it heartening to hear Furtwängler creating chamber textures with his big band.

Tempos are not slow but the result has a fine, unhurried feel. The slow movement is beautifully caressed and the finale has an appealing lightness. Menuhinís later recordings of the work have their various qualities but this recording has much to commend it as the meeting of two great minds, Menuhin and Furtwängler.

The disc starts with Mendelssohnís Concerto in D minor for violin and string orchestra. Menuhin was responsible for bringing this work to light. He was shown the manuscript in 1951 by a dealer in rare books and manuscripts. Menuhin bought the manuscript, edited the work and gave the first modern performance of it in 1952. Mendelssohn wrote the piece at the age of 13 for his friend Edouard Rietz and the family orchestra. It is expertly written and has much fragile charm. Menuhin performs the solo part with grace and also conducts the orchestra; this was his first conducting credit on record. This recording was evidently only released in the USA and just over a year later Menuhin re-recorded the piece with Adrian Boult conducting.

The final work on the disc is Bruchís Violin Concerto No. 1. This 1951 recording with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra was Menuhinís third version of this piece, his only recording with either Munch or the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Menuhin is his familiar lissom self in this performance with the solo line elegantly shaped. Though Munchís accompaniment is not too overblown romantically there were still times when I felt that Menuhinís serene and silver tones sounded too spare; I would have like more refulgence at the peak moments. But Menuhin is always a fascinating performer even when not ideal.

This is a fine set of remasterings by Mark Obert-Thorn; one of Menuhinís best recordings of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor being paired with a couple of recordings which have been unavailable for some considerable time.

Robert Hugill

see also reviews by Jonathan Woolf , Christopher Howell , Em Marshall ,


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