EMI’s Gemini series
is trawling the back catalogue like a basking shark. Or, perhaps
it would be more accurate to say, it’s feasting on its own fat
to repackage the Double Forte series in a new guise, suitably
re-priced. I’ve reviewed several in the series, mostly affirmatively,
and this one gives no real cause for complaint except perhaps
programmatically. Not only are the Beethoven sonatas, four of
them, yoked to the Tchaikovsky trio but we must face the fact
that Zuckerman is here in competition with himself. The complete
Beethoven sonata set with Marc Neikrug is in a nicely priced,
snugly boxed four CD Sony set.
So the scales are
balanced between thirty year old recordings of four sonatas
coupled with the Tchaikovsky and a set of all ten from more
a decade ago - recorded during 1990-91. If one wanted to complicate
things still further one could note that the Spring and
the Kreutzer were issued on a single disc a couple of
years after the complete set was released. And to further muddy
the waters by reinforcing the point that this Gemini doesn’t
include the Spring.
So where are we?
We’re here with some lyrical and sweetly suggestive performances,
invariably judged against the earlier Perlman/Ashkenazy set.
As one who’s retained that latter set with the greatest enthusiasm
but who has yet fully to savour the Zuckerman/Barenboim approach
I returned to them with interest. The Kreutzer frankly
puzzled me. It can take any amount of approaches I suppose but
this one sounds studied to a fault. The very slow and inward
opening violin statement prepares one for what’s to come. To
me this all lacks an underlying pulse; too many metrical dislocations.
For all the deft interplay and dynamic gradients - and the violin
rightly giving way to the piano when necessary – I remain unpersuaded
by Zuckerman and Barenboim.
The rather over
warm acoustic doesn’t help matters in the sonata performances.
It makes the Seventh sound over sugared. Detail is good but
tape hiss is audible. The last sonata is attractively done but
I must say I miss the kind of introspection that an unlikely
seeming pairing such as Szigeti and Arrau evoked from it. There
was little intrinsically beautiful about the Hungarian’s tone
but his phrasing was sublime, and the sonata took on a wholly
different stature in his and Arrau’s hands.
One can’t gainsay
du Pré in the Tchaikovsky. She and Zuckerman – and of course
Barenboim - were adroit partners. I happen to prefer a more
controlled and therefore more linear kind of performance to
this one. I remember a recording of a live performance, captured
by Ivory Classics, given by Oscar Shumsky, Charles Curtis and
Earl Wild with particular pleasure. But if your tastes do run
to the expansive and enjoy the opening out of lyric potential
then you will doubtless enjoy this performance greatly.
Looked at in the cold light of day I’m not
quite sure of the ideal market for this disc, whether repertoire-led
or concentrated more firmly on the three star soloists. I suppose
the latter and that’s fair enough. But the Zuckerman-Barenboim
readings are somewhat problematic, and the Tchaikovsky trio
equally so for different reasons. Over to you.
see also Review
by Tony Haywood