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Heifetz - Double Concertos by Bach, Mozart, Brahms
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043  (1717-1723) [14:35]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat major, K 364 (320d) (1779) [27:00]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102 (1887) [29:18]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
Erick Friedman (violin) (Bach); Thornton Lofthouse (harpsichord) (Bach); William Primrose (viola) (Mozart); Gregor Piatigorsky (cello) (Brahms)
New Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent (Bach);
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Izler Solomon (Mozart)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein (Brahms)
rec. Walthamstow Town Hall, London, England, May 1961 (Bach); Republic Studios, Hollywood, California, February 1956 (Mozart); Republic Studios, Hollywood, California May 1960. ADD. CD audio; SACD; SACD Surround Sound
BMG RCA RED SEAL 88697 04605-2 [70:53]

As expected this is awesome playing recorded with an immediacy that pins the listener against the wall. Set against this the fact that these versions are all just a bit hasty and unfeeling; even brusque at times. It is almost as if Heifetz and his collaborators cross a field of fragile blooms treading them under foot. And yet … and yet … these readings remain profoundly impressive and they do have the capacity to move. The ensemble is thunderously simultaneous in the fortes; agreeably gruff and spot-on in unanimity though a little less so in the Brahms. The Bach and Mozart are successful in a very idiosyncratic way. There’s no doubting the romantic charge ladled on deep, warm and sticky but the results are often irresistible as in the lilting slides at 3.29 in the middle movement of the Mozart. However I would not want to hear these works like this every time.

In these hands the Brahms is the least successful of the three concertos. It lacks the necessary weight of thought and substance. This is a reading that scuds across the surface – rips along flattening the flowers. Compensation is proffered in the form of moments of electrifying excitement but it’s not enough. It does not dig in and for me it certainly does not move. I have heard several different versions recently and while hardly ideal the EMI Gemini (0946 3 81487 2 2) with Oistrakh and Fournier is to be preferred. If you can take the rough edges then another lively, humane yet abrasive performance is the live one on Russian Revelation RV10089 from Viktor Tretyakov and Viktor Feigin – get it if you see it. It has real blood running through its veins and arteries. My reference version however is the Isaac Stern/Leonard Rose version on Sony. There is no absolutely substitute for its lyric 'stickiness' and smoky passion – an overwhelming version.

The sound on this disc is forty years plus old and is grainy yet vivid. The full notes are by Jay S. Harrison.

Rob Barnett


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