Those were the days. The
roster of pianists here is almost beyond belief … and they’re
all accompanying! Three truly great pianists - all very different
from one another - in the company of one of the greatest violinists.
What happened, of course, was that collaboration with Heifetz
was evidently just that – collaboration, a meeting of minds
united in service to the composer.
The story behind the ‘Kreutzer’ is that these two gents
recorded the work on June 13th 1949. Heifetz disliked
his test pressings, necessitating this return to Abbey
Road. The 1949 performance is actually
available, taken from the pianist’s test pressings, on APR5610
for a review on this site by Jonathan Woolf).
I only have this to hand, alas, but can report that there is
sovereign playing from both artists. Dare I say it that it is
to Heifetz’s credit that he doesn’t take a back seat and just
bask in the magnificence of Moiseiwitsch’s playing? A pianist
reviewing, I hear you exclaim, and I am guilty as charged. Listen
to the pianist’s definition throughout, or the huge energy that
comes from the piano’s direction around 4’15. Try also the duet
between Heifetz and Moiseiwitsch’s left-hand (8’10), two independent
voices reacting to each other.
But to praise Moiseiwitsch
to the skies is not to demean for a millisecond Heifetz, captured
here on top form. And the listening public at large owes Mark
Obert-Thorn big-time for his transfer. The sweetness of Heifetz’s
tone comes through easily.
If Heifetz’s lyric stretch is awe-inspiring in the Andante
(con Variazioni), this reviewer’s ears were drawn time and time
again to the many felicities in the piano part. The agile finale
emerges as almost Mendelssohnian with these two Masters of their
art, yet – crucially – implies simultaneously a sense of the
vast. Profundity co-exists peacefully with lightness, and, towards
the end, real excitement. This performance is surely one of
the real events in the history of the gramophone.
The Brahms Third Sonata features William Kapell, no less.
Both players inject great energy and life into Brahms’ magnificent
score. Thanks are due to Naxos for allowing us to compare and contrast Moiseiwitsch
and Kapell like this. It is true that Kapell is not the patrician
Moiseiwitsch is on this disc, but his strength is that he is
positively chameleon-like in his responses. Perhaps ultra-harmonically
sensitive is closer to it, and in Brahms this is surely the
key to a great performance. The grand expression of the Adagio
(which includes moments of real delicacy), the light touch all
round for the ‘Un poco presto e con sentimento’ and the fire
of the finale are all remarkable.
Finally, Franck’s magnificent Sonata with Rubinstein.
If the first movement’s lovely flow (it is taken quite fast)
is not quite the Belgian-French experience one could wish for,
the sonata is almost worth hearing just for Rubinstein in the
second movement. There is no trace whatsoever of the finger-awkwardness
one so often encounters. The third movement is almost improvisatory,
seeming to invoke French gypsies! Together, Heifetz and Rubinstein
ease into the finale.
If there is a ‘weak’ performance here it is the Franck,
an account that remains, by virtually anyone else’s standards,
excellent. True, personally speaking I was less taken with Rubinstein
than by Moiseiwitsch and Kapell, but then again on a disc like
this one is so spoiled …
Booklet notes are as excellently informed as one might
expect from the authority Tully Potter.