Record companies are
slowly getting to grips with the history
of the Four Seasons on disc.
Molinariís pioneering account, reclothed
for string orchestra sans soloist,
has appeared on an Italian label, and
the first ever recording of the "real
deal" by the sumptuous Louis Kaufman
has recently been issued by Naxos. An
off air Campoli performance with Boyd
Neel has come out on Pearl. To these
the inquisitive fiddle-fancier can now
add Doremiís restoration of Berlin-born
Julian Olevskyís recording of the entire
cycle of twelve concertos that make
up Op.8. Set down circa 1954 with none
less than Hermann Scherchen on the podium
this is a rare opportunity to hear a
most impressive talent, one whose career
never really breached the upper echelons
of the performing circuit and whose
recordings have never achieved wide
recognition. Yet thanks to Doremi we
can now hear the complete cycle of Mozart
sonatas for piano and violin and the
Bach Sonatas and Partitas.
Olevsky was of Russian
origin but was born in Berlin n 1926
moving to Argentina in 1935. There he
studied with a violinist of distinction,
if somewhat retrogressive technical
equipment by then, Alexander Petschnikoff.
Moving to America after a debut with
Fritz Busch he made a number of discs
for Westminster, had a good if unspectacular
career and proved a good teacher. He
died aged only fifty-nine in 1985.
He was about twenty-eight
when he went to Vienna to record the
Vivaldi, accompanied by the Vienna State
Opera Orchestra and Scherchen.
Itís an uneven set.
Olevsky was a fine player, elegant,
warm if not opulently toned, and one
who seldom had recourse to portamenti
though he certainly did to expressive
diminuendi. His contribution is fine
if not especially personalised; I donít
think youíd note any distinguishing
characteristics. Which is not to say
his playing is cool or uninteresting;
on the contrary. The dominant force
however is Scherchen. He makes sure
the harpsichord is prominent throughout
and certainly brings out some "interesting"
harmonies in the slow movement of Spring
Ė see-sawing strings, desolate middle
voicings. His finale is also relatively
slow and the tuttis donít really register,
which may be a fault of the recording.
The conductor insists on quite a bit
of rubato in the opening of Summer and
devitalised speeds for the slow movements
of this and Autumn, albeit Scherchen
explores the melodic and harmonic implications
of Autumnís slow movement with real
sagacity. Thereís good bass pointing
in the same concertoís finale with fine
instrumental exchanges but the opening
of Winter now sounds merely dogged.
Its slow movement must be one of the
most heroically badly recorded in history.
What possessed the engineers, or Scherchen,
or Olevsky to allow the orchestral string
pizzicatos almost entirely to obliterate
Olevskyís solo line (and I do mean obliterate
as in "render inaudible")?
So a very uneven listening experience.
Olevsky is a pleasing soloist, well
mannered, technically eloquent, tonally
accomplished, just without being able
to assert much personality on the proceedings.
I enjoyed La Tempesta
di Mare with its very warm slow
movement and Il Piacere whose
opening movement is very reminiscent
of the opening of Spring. There are
plenty of other interesting features
scattered throughout the set; the well
sprung finale of the D minor, No.7,
or Olevskyís unusually expressive vibrato
usage in the opening of the G minor,
or indeed his quick slide in its Largo.
There are good fugal entry points in
the Allegro opening of the D major and
some rather chuggy articulation in the
first movement of the C major.
The transfer seems
to have done with some care, though
Iíve never had access to the original
LP release with which I could make some
comparison. Brief biographical notes
complete the package.