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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in C major KV 296 [13:03]
Violin Sonata in B flat major KV 378 [17:43]
Violin Sonata in B flat major KV 454 [20:27]
Duo in B flat major for violin and viola K424 [17:09] ¹
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
William Primrose (viola) ¹
Emanuel Bay (piano)
IDIS 6521 [68:26]

When is the Heifetz Edition going to be repackaged and reissued? Such a thought came to mind when pondering how companies such as IDIS are scouring his legacy and compiling selections on their own labels. There have been other releases in this series and this is indeed the second volume of their Heifetz-Mozart reissues. This gives us three sonatas and the Duo, all performed between 1936 and 1947.
Heifetz’s Mozart tended to be over-balanced towards the masculine. This was fine when it come to the outer movements, which are given with propulsive incision and rhythmic dynamism. Emanuel Bay was at all times a pliant if attentive partner. But problems soon emerged when it came to the over-perfumed expression Heifetz lavished with such frequency in the slow movements. This has nothing to do with anachronistic views of period practice. Rather it’s to do with the consonance of expression between movements and the feeling that Heifetz routinely breaches expressive boundaries in his quest to promote a succulent and richly individualised, if externalised, expression. This applies in all three slow movements in all three sonatas.
K296 sounds beautifully and ornately over-perfumed with the extensive array of Heifetzian finger position changes. The succulence is dangerously indulged. Similarly in K378 we can observe this lack of discrimination between the demands of external and internal projection – if Mozart chamber playing represents an exchange between male and female elements then Heifetz’s masculinity admits of little light and shade. The result is an intrinsic lack of expressive balance. The temptations of romantic effusiveness are perhaps best exemplified in K454, which is played with magnificent allure, richness, ripeness and brilliance. The corollary is that it represents a fatally compromised torso of awareness – glittering but misplaced. The Duo with Primrose is a magnificent piece of fiddling but as with their Sinfonia concertante recording I can’t warm to the playing.
K378 was on Biddulph LAB 012 in a transfer by Jon Samuels, which was a touch noisy but bright and focused. It’s much preferable to this treble-starved and noise-suppressed effort. Similarly K454 was in that same Biddulph release but here honours are more even. IDIS’s work however is here more open and brighter at the top. The Duo is on Biddulph LAB 074 – not much between them here.
Jonathan Woolf



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