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The Michael Rabin Legacy: Unissued Recordings 1950-56
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto No.1 Op.14 (1853) [20:11] *
Etude-caprice Op.18 No.4 [1:40]
Polonaise brillante Op.4 [5:02]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 - 1936)
Violin Concerto in A Op. 82 (1905) [19:33] #
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra (1873) – fifth movement [6:52]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.35 (1878) – first movement [12:39]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (1879) – third movement [7:50]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 (1844) – Third movement [6:28]
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges Op.34 No.2 [5:15]
Mailüfte Op.62 No.1 [2:37]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1784-1840)
Caprice Op.1 No.17 (c.1819) [3:30]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dance Op.46 No.2 arranged Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) [4:10]
William KROLL (1901-1980)
Banjo and Fiddle [2:53]
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
Old Vienna [Alt Wien] (1916) transcribed by Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) [3:05]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Caprice Viennois Op.2 [4:09]
Old Refrain [3:13]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-49)
Nocturne Op.27 No.1 arranged Nathan Milstein [4:20]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
La vida breve (1905) [3:25]
Pablo de SARASATE (1841-1904)
Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 for violin and orchestra (1878) [8:26]
Carmen Fantasy Op. 25 for violin and orchestra (1879) – parts three and four [4:48]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La fille aux cheveux de lin - transcribed Arthur Hartmann in 1910 [2:45]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guittare Op 45 Op.45 No.2 [3:11]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
La Capricieuse Op. 17 (1891) [4:04]
Bell Telephone Orchestra/Donald Voorhees except
* Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein, recorded February 1954
# New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Mitropoulos, recorded May 1954
rec. 1950-56
TAHRA TAH632-33 [74:15 + 67:47]

Time for some Rabin discography. The collector will want to know what, of this two disc and previously apparently unissued assemblage, is new to the great violinist’s roll call of recordings. The Wieniawski Concerto was recorded with Boult in London in 1957, three years later than this Los Angeles performance. Similarly von Matacic conducted the commercial Glazunov in 1954, the same year as we find Rabin with Mitropoulos in New York in this Tahra set. In both London sessions the orchestra was the Philharmonia. Then there are single movements from concertos with the Bell Telephone Orchestra; strictly speaking one shouldn’t worry too much here but for the record Rabin’s Mendelssohn Concerto was with Galliera in 1956 and his Mendelssohn was once again with Boult in 1957. The Philharmonia reprised their efforts.
The second disc is given over to encore and genre pieces.  Taking them in disc running order; the Paganini Caprice naturally enough is part of his legacy; the Dvořák and Kroll were recorded with Artur Balsam for Columbia; the Caprice Viennois was set down with the Hollywood Bowl and Felix Slatkin; Balsam did the honours again in the Wieniawski Etude and so did Pommers for Capitol. Donald Voorhees himself appeared in commercially recorded guise with the Columbia Symphony for Zigeunerweisen and Slatkin did likewise in another recording. A truncated final section of the Carmen fantasy was set down with Balsam and the Elgar was recorded with Pommers.
So both the Mendelssohns, Godowsky, the Wieniawski Poloniase brillante, Chopin Nocturne, de Falla, Kreisler Old Refrain, Debussy and Moszkowski are all, so far as I’m aware, entirely new to Rabin’s discography. Regarding the concerto movements, Rabin left behind no commercial recordings of the Lalo or the Brahms.
As such this constitutes an important cache of Rabin material and clearly no serious collector of his recordings should overlook it. The state of preservation of the discs is fine and generally unproblematic. Restoration is accomplished. I seem to have ended my review.
But of course beyond the questions of discography, gaps, preservation of precious and otherwise unrecorded works and the like we have the fascinating aural pleasure of hearing Rabin in a concentrated span of years from his early teens to his twentieth year. The encore disc runs chronologically which imparts a sense of continuity and development; in the case of the concerto disc this isn’t the case but it doesn’t really matter. His Wieniawski has all Rabin’s accustomed beauty of tone, magnificent cantilena, and an extraordinarily developed sense of colour for a youth of about eighteen. The succulent finger position changes remind one forcibly of Heifetz. Fortunately he is  forward in the balance so we can hear the subtleties of fingering and bowing that gave such life to his playing - lissom and confident. His Glazunov opens with just a touch of swish and sound that comes and goes. But this passes quickly. His reading is finely proportioned, slightly reminiscent of Milstein’s in orientation, not as tensile or as quick as Heifetz. The Lalo movement is ebullient though not Francophile in orientation or sound – not a Thibaud or Merckel kind of performance obviously. The Tchaikovsky is alas remorselessly hacked about, presumably so as to fit the Bell programming schedule – it’s all over in twelve and a half minutes. Rabin’s Brahms is masculine but tonally a touch abrasive, his Mendelssohn finale robust.
The encore selection offers similar virtues in miniature. One can hear in the Mailüfte that some strong and residual Heifetz mannerisms have yet to be properly absorbed. This similarly informs his playing of the Kroll where the stamp of Heifetz’s finger position changes can be felt. The Dvořák isn’t flattered either by the sound or the orchestra. The Kreisler Caprice Viennois demonstrates tremendous stylistic precocity, though I find his Zigeunerweisen a touch metrical.  Juicy vibrato usage courses through the Old Refrain.
This is a splendid collection; much is, I suppose, strictly considered ancillary to Rabin’s commercial work but conversely there are unique things here. As violin playing it could hardly be bettered. There is a dual language (French/English) essay and some evocative photographs. An important set.
Jonathan Woolf


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