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The Michael Rabin Collection - Vol. 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 8 in G, Op. 30, No. 3 [17:24]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in A, Op. 13 [22:51]
Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1820)

Caprice Op. 1 No. 17 in E-flat [3:16]
Michael Rabin, violin
Lothar Broddack, piano
The Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees (Paganini)
Recorded from live broadcasts of the RIAS Berlin, October 30, 1962 (Beethoven), October 17, 1961 (Fauré) and August 7, 1950 (Paganini)
Remastering and sonic restoration by Jacob Harnoy.
DOREMI DHR-7715 [43:31]
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The world of music seems to be rife with the tragically youthful deaths of its brightest stars. Pergolesi and Purcell in the seventeenth century, Mozart in the eighteenth, Mendelssohn and Schubert in the nineteenth. The twentieth century did not see the passing of as many composers before their time, but there was a plethora of great performers taken from us long before they should have been, among them: tenors Fritz Wunderlich and Jussi Björling, pianists William Kapell and Dinu Lipatti, conductors Guido Cantelli and Thomas Schippers, and violinists Ginette Neveu and Michael Rabin.

The latter, Mr. Rabin, has since his untimely and accidental death, become a bit of a cult figure, a hero to many a violinist and lover of the instrument. A child prodigy, he was heralded by such luminaries as George Szell and Dmitri Mitropoulos as the most gifted violin virtuoso that these great conductors had ever heard.

Alas, his recorded legacy is limited mostly to the virtuoso violin repertoire popular on the concert platforms of his era, and great though these recordings are, the music itself often lacks the kind of substance worthy of a musician that was so gifted both in technique and expressive interpretive skills. Thus, these recordings of two significant sonatas, taken from broadcasts of RIAS Berlin are particularly valuable and welcome in these their first commercial releases.

Opening with Beethoven’s eighth sonata, Rabin’s playing is completely effortless, his technical command of his instrument completely assured and his tone is rich and lovely. He tears into the opening Allegro with great élan, and the pure joyousness of his playing is infectious. The minuet is elegant and the final allegro bursts off the pages. This is playing of such high order that we can only mourn the fact that he never recorded a complete set of Beethoven’s sonatas. What a treasure that would have been.

Fauré’s life was one of peaceful contentment and this serenity is borne out in nearly every work he composed. No exception to the rule is this magnificently tuneful sonata, packed with elegant melodies and rich, not quite romantic and not quite impressionistic harmonies. Again, the performances are flawless, Rabin sailing through the tuneful score like a kite flying in the breeze, completely without strain and carefree. Special mention should also be made of Lothar Broddack’s excellent pianism. In these studio performances, he doesn’t miss a single note, and the playing is as expressive and sonorously rich as any Casadesus, Rubinstein or other great master of chamber music playing from the day.

Sadly, the microphone placement (or is it the restoration by Jacob Harnoy?) tends to favor the violin, and although the piano sound is quite satisfactory given the conditions under which it was recorded, it is still not as crisp and clear as one would have hoped. Small qualm this though as the sheer beauty of the playing here overcomes any engineering problem. I would be interested to hear Mr. Harnoy’s comments as to the balance and clarity issues he encountered as he prepared this disc.

We get a nice little bonus in the Paganini, recorded when Rabin was all of fourteen, in this arrangement of the Caprice in E-flat, arranged for orchestral accompaniment by Maestro Voorhees. Sound quality from the old television soundtrack is less than optimal, but it does give us a good idea of just how good Rabin was at so young an age!

Program notes are minimal and say nothing about the music. It surely would not have been too difficult to scare up some information on the works themselves, now would it? Otherwise, an absolutely splendid disc, and I for one cannot wait for the next volumes in the series. A most welcome addition to the Rabin lore!

Kevin Sutton

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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