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Heifetz Transcriptions
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) Nocturne Op. 55, No.2 [5:27]
Alexander Krein (1883-1951) Dance No. 4 [1:09]
Stephen Foster (1826-1864) Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (1854) [3:16]
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) The Tale of Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee (1900) [1:17]
Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787) Orpheus and Eurydice: Dance of the Blessed Spirits (1762) [3:15]
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) The Love for Three Oranges: March (1921) [1:40]
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894) [8:10]; Children’s Corner Suite: No. 6 Golliwog’s Cakewalk (1906-08) [3:07]
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) Tango (1921-25) [1:42]
Trad. Afro-American: Deep River [2:29]
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet: Masks (1935) [2:09]
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) Stimmungsbilder No. 1 - Auf stillen Waldespfad (1883-84) [2:49]
Flausino Vale (1894-1954) Preludio 15: Ao pé da foguiera [1:26]
Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909) Suite Espanŏla: No. 3 Sevilla (1886) [4:15]
Grigoraş Dinicu (1889-1949) Hora Staccato (1906) [2:08]
Ernö von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) Suite in F-sharp Minor: Romanza (1908-1909) [4:37]
Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) Estrellita (1912) [3:16]
George Gershwin (1898-1937) Porgy and Bess: A Woman is a Sometime Thing (1935) [4:23]
Su Yeon Lee (violin); Michael Chertok (piano)
rec. Robert J. Werner Recital Hall, University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, 1-3 September 2004
NAXOS 8.557670 [57:38]
 

As a violinist Jascha Heifetz was one of the most famous of the twentieth century. In the course of his career he made over one hundred transcriptions of pieces of music not originally for violin. In this he showed a catholicity of interest - taking music from Europe, the US and Latin America, although he seemed to favor composers born in the middle or late nineteenth century. Technically the transcriptions are very well done, but many of them betray a tendency towards sentimentality or “schmaltz” that is not always in the original music. On the other hand, he could make a straightforward transcription, as evidenced by several of the items on this disc. It should be pointed out that many of Heifetz’s transcriptions usually did not turn up on printed programmes, but as encores for his recitals. This may partially explain the lack of total adherence to the spirit of the original scores, especially from a man who could play chamber music perfectly appropriately.
 
The violinist on this record is the sixteen year-old American Su Yeon Lee. As far as I can tell this is her recording debut. She first came to notice in America several years ago when she played with three other violinists on Christopher O’Reilly's radio show, "From the Top”. Ms. Lee has long been associated with the New England Conservatory of Music and has toured abroad with the Starling Chamber Orchestra. Based on this CD she seems to excel in pieces or parts of pieces that are ruminative. In fast or powerful passages, she seems unable to bring sufficient force to bear. Her technique is quite proficient, as it needs to be to follow in Heifetz’s footsteps.
 
The disc starts off with Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55, No. 2. Ms Lee plays it in a rather languid fashion, which is appropriate to the piece, but does not sustain our interest all the way through. The Russian works of Krein and Rimsky-Korsakov demonstrate the violinist’s strong points. She gets the Russian tone of both pieces very well and her playing in the Rimsky is very accomplished. The two Prokofiev works show the other side of the coin: the March lacks drive and the excerpt from Romeo and Juliet is rather plodding. After the Rimsky comes one of Heifetz’s best known transcriptions - the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Eurydice. Lee plays this arrangement straight, which is more than can be said for many violinists who attempt this encore. She also makes the most of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, one of Heifetz’s most sentimental efforts.
 
The slow/fast dichotomy continues with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Tango and the Dinicu, both of which are played too slow, even as encores. But all is forgiven with the Albeniz and Debussy works. These are performed with all the control of tempi and all the feeling required. Heifetz’s transcription of the Golliwog’s Cakewalk is not one of his best. Lee however plays it as if it had been written originally for violin and piano, with a fine mixture of virtuosity and comprehension. The old spiritual Deep River is performed with a great deal of feeling.
 
Ms. Lee is assisted by the well-known pianist Michael Chertok, who applies himself to a program that might not be too exciting for an accompanist. The recording quality is good, with only a little up-close reverberation now and then. Ms. Lee, as can be seen from the above, is a violinist of fine technique. When she can apply equal energy to all types of music, she will be a formidable performer.

William Kreindler
 

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