This is a souvenir
of the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Of course it’s much more besides
as it showcases the talents of two emerging fiddle players,
Benjamin Schmid and David Frühwirth, who with their colleagues
are responsible for this all-Korngold compilation. Both violinists
have made contributions on disc before now – I’ve reviewed Schmid
on this site in fairly standard repertoire and Frühwirth has
put together an intriguing double CD selection of inter-War
things – among them Gál, Rathaus, Busch, and indeed the Korngold
suite he essayed in Salzburg.
One can assume they
feel comfortable in congenial repertoire – the results are certainly
persuasive. Apparently Schmid was the toast of the town for
his companionable meeting with Ozawa in the Concerto. This is
a work becoming increasingly visible in the racks – long gone
are the days when Heifetz was the only yardstick – though it’s
also true to say that the work is becoming increasingly more
measured and introverted with each passing year. It was, one
needs to remember, written for Huberman not Heifetz, so perhaps
Heifetzian rapier would have been modified by the more anachronistic
Huberman aesthetic, had he ever given a performance. What remains
the case is that there are a number of recommendable recordings
at all price brackets – Perlman (recorded as ever too close)
with the Goldmark, Shahan with the Barber and Korngold’s Much
Ado, Heifetz, unmatchable, is still here with Wallenstein,
and Vera Tsu, surprisingly good on Naxos with the Goldmark in
a mini-Perlman offering.
Schmid is not as
closely recorded as Perlman and Heifetz and that’s to the good.
He isn’t as warmly succulent as either, though his is a subtle
infusion of colour, albeit one that cleaves to the accepted
prevailing view of this work as rather chaste and feminine.
Well, call me crabby but I like a bit of guts hereabouts and
I go for Heifetz’s Porsche road handling skills, and a tempo
altogether faster than his rivals. No one can quite match his
oratorical presence in the ruminative opening – here in Salzburg
there’s just the hint of sagging and the slightly diffuse orchestral
sound balance doesn’t assist. Still, Schmid’s silvery tone brings
its own rewards, especially in the Anthony Adverse-isms
of the slow movement. Schmid’s sensitivity is further signalled
by his selfless care over dynamics in the finale and by his
attentive fusion of his colour with that of the orchestral solos.
Ozawa marshals the rhythmic business of the finale pretty well.
A good performance then, all round, but not one I think that
matches the front-runners.
In the Suite he’s
joined by chamber colleagues for a commanding traversal, somewhat
spoilt by a clangy piano. Nevertheless there’s plenty to note
here – the craggy Prelude, ominous cello, pizzicato flecked
and increasingly voluptuous. There’s a whimsical waltz, with
succulent colour, but one that so borders – in this performance
– on the obsessive that the ensuing Groteske third movement
seems to emerge organically for once and not seem to be imposed.
The forlorn contrastive B section is a troubling foil – in point
of fact this is a deeply troubling work – and the performance
barely stints of the hints of mania (it was written in 1930).
There’s a beautiful lied to calm things and a fine energetic
Rondo. But the impression remains of barely concealed tension.
The Much Ado
About Nothing suite has been popular since it was first
published. In fact violist Lionel Tertis was quick off the mark,
recording a movement for Columbia (not issued at the time) a
scant few years after it was brought out. The biggest figure
in its recorded history – certainly the most molten - was Toscha
Seidel. Frühwirth is no Seidel, either in inclination or tonal
reserves, and he has in any case already recorded the Suite
in studio conditions for Avie. He brings elegant tang to the
second of the movements, and brings explicit contrast between
crystalline upper strings and husky lower ones in the Garden
Scene (the most popular).
Both these fiddle
players are offering some good things in their careers and particularly
here. Korngold addicts can take a punt, but knowing that these
are live documents and they will need ancillary performances.