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Twenty Great Violinists
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Siciliano  - Sonata in C minor [3:41]
Adolf Busch (violin) and Artur Balsam (piano) recorded 1942
Franz DRDLA (1869-1944)
Souvenir (1904) [3:33]
Mischa Elman (violin) and Philip Gordon (piano) recorded 1917
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1957)
Liebesleid (1911) [2:57]
Zino Francescatti (violin) and Artur Balsam (piano) recorded 1947
Caprice Viennois Op.2 (1910) [3:27]
Fritz Kreisler (violin) and Carl Lamson (piano)
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Scherzo tarantelle Op.16 (1856) [4:11]
Ida Haendel (violin) with Adela Kotowska (piano) recorded 1942
Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)
Hora Staccato (1906) [2:03]
Jascha Heifetz (violin) and Emanuel Bay (piano)
Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
La Campanella –Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor Op.7 – third movement [4:32]
Bronislaw Huberman (violin) and Paul Frenkel (piano) recorded 1923
Moto Perpetuo – Allegri di concert in C Op.11 (1835) [3:05]
Michael Rabin (violin)  /Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Donald Voorhees, recorded 1953
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.9 in A Op.47 Kreutzer – finale [8:45]
Leonid Kogan (violin) and Grigori Ginzburg (piano) unknown recording date
Antonin DVORAK (1844-1904)
Humoresque No.7 B187 (1894) [3:10]
Georg Kulenkampff (violin) and Franz Rupp (piano)
Franz RIES (1846-1932)
La Capricciosa [2:29]
Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Louis Persinger (piano) recorded 1928
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Burleska – Four Pieces for violin and piano Op.17 (1900) [2:32]
Nathan Milstein (violin) and Artur Balsam (piano) recorded 1940
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Concert Fantasy on Gounod's Faust (1874) [2:24]
Erica Morini (violin) and Max Lanner (piano) recorded 1941
Ottakar NOVACEK (1866-1900)
Perpetuum Mobile [2:34]
Ricardo Odnoposoff (violin) and Otto Herz (piano) recorded 1945
Bela BARTOK (1881-1945)
Six Rumanian Folk Dances Sz56 (1915) [5:35]
David Oistrakh (violin) and Vladimir Yampolsky (piano) recorded 1955
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane – rapsodie for violin and orchestra (1924) [8:51]
Ruggiero Ricci (violin)/Lamoureux Orchestra/Eugene Bigot, recorded 1947
Gaspar CASSADO (1886-1966)
Danse du diable vert - Dance of the Green Devil [3:10]
Albert Spalding (violin) and Andre Benoist (piano) recorded 1937
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Jota – Seven Canciones populares espanolas No.4 arranged Kochanski [2:55]
Isaac Stern (violin) and Alexander Zakin (piano) recorded 1947
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No.5 in F sharp minor arranged Joseph Joachim [2:13]
Josef Szigeti (violin) and Andor Foldes (piano) recorded 1941
Riccardo DRIGO (1846-1930)
Valse bluette – air de ballet arranged Leopold Auer [2:04]
Efrem Zimbalist (violin) and Emanuel Bay (piano) recorded 1928
LIVING ERA CLASSICS AJC8562 [75:30]
 


A brace of new releases from Living Era gives us Twenty Great Violinists and Twenty Great Pianists (see review). Both have a similar rationale. Neither seeks to claim the “twenty greatest,” an invariably fatuous endeavour, so there is no implied equivalence between the players. And this means that your own particular missing favourite – Thibaud, say, or Toscha Seidel – need not feel slighted.
 
There are a number of such compilations on the market – Pearl has an encore selection for instance – and they stand or fall on several grounds. Firstly how good is the selection? Well, the expected names are here. Kreisler has his Caprice Viennois but in the 1926 recording not the better known one from a decade later. Elman and Heifetz and the Milsteins and Morinis are all here. Perhaps less expectedly Spalding is here - his Cassadó piece has never been released on CD so far as I’m aware, only on a Masters of the Bow LP many years ago. Its appearance here is a mark of acute and knowledgeable selection. Similarly the 1941 Busch Geminiani, seldom encountered, and the Kulenkampff Humoresque, taken from a 1928 session. It’s also fine to have Odnoposoff in this company even if he is represented by that classic piece of violinistic flim-flam, the Perpetuum mobile. In this selection Zimbalist’s Drigo also sits well, another escapee from most CD reissues.
 
In this respect though doubts begin to intrude over some of the selections. In this overwhelmingly encore orientated disc we have Ricci’s Tzigane with Lamoureux Orchestra and Eugene Bigot. And we also have the finale of the Kreutzer with Kogan and Ginzburg. Both these are welcome but not, I think, here. They unbalance the programme. The Kogan would be far better off heard in its entirety elsewhere and we could have thus increased the number of fiddlers included in this album. 
 
The second consideration is documentation. The Living Era team has gone to some lengths to compile useful discographic information – full titles, opus numbers and dates of composition, full matrix and issue numbers. Several specialist reissue outfits would do well to emulate them. That said a few typos have intruded. Haendel’s accompanist Adela Kotowska has her name misspelled; the compilers can’t agree either on who wrote the Perpetuum mobile – Novacek obviously not Novak – or on Emanuel Bay’s surname (Bay not Bey). Overall however this level of care has not gone unnoticed – a budget price product need not always mean budget price documentation, as this company consistently shows.
 
The final question is transfer quality and this is where Living Era and I must regretfully part company. If you go to the trouble of excavating Elman’s 1917 Drigo why turn it into the kind of aural mush that makes it sound as if it were recorded on tinfoil in 1887? It’s heard on an immeasurably better transfer in Biddulph’s Elman edition where that volcanic tone is intact. The same strictures apply throughout. Huberman’s spiky spiccati are homogenised out of existence – hear him once again on Biddulph. Szigeti’s 1941 disc sounds almost brutally aggressive – nothing so brittle happens in the relevant Szigeti volume, once again, on Biddulph. Similarly the Haendel sounds superior on the Decca reissue, the Menuhin on Biddulph; the Kreisler sounds especially poor here and the Kulenkampff Polydor has no room ambience. The 78 sounds much more open and warm.
 
In short the personalised tones and aural characteristics that make these players so special have been compromised by the transfers. As such newcomers will be wise to regard this release with considerable caution.
 
Jonathan Woolf

 

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