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Ivry Gitlis
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D (1878)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op 108 (1888) – Movement 1
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for solo violin Sz117 – Movement 3 - Melodia
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
La Capricieuse Op.17
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise Brillante in D major Op.4
Capriccio-Valse in E major Op.7
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Introduction et Rondo capriccioso Op.28 *
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre Op.45 No.2 arranged Sarasate *
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Malagueńa Op.165 No.3 arranged Kreisler *
Nicolň PAGANINI (1782 – 1840)
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor Op.7 – La Campanella only
Ivry Gitlis (violin)
Orchestre de l’ORTF/Francesco Mander (Tchaikovsky) rec. 1965
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra/Stanislaw Wislocki (Paganini) rec. 1966
Tasso Janopoulo (piano) rec. 1962, 1968
Georges Pludermacher (piano) rec. 1971, 1973 *
NTSC System 4:3; format; DVD-9 (dual layer-single sided); Sound Format: LPCM Mono 2.0 (PCM dual mono) Menu Languages: English, French, German, Spanish
EMI CLASSICS DVB 38846994 [75:22]


This Gitlis release is from the same batch that has given us the Milstein/Boult DVD. Gitlis is, of course, almost Milstein’s antipode as a musician and the two films make for instructive viewing and listening. That said they really are very different films. Gitlis is seen in a Bernard Gavoty TV production from a Parisian studio. Credits roll as he and the doyen of French accompanists, Tasso Janopoulo, begin to play. The studio is rather artfully stagey - carpets and tapestries and a Picasso-esque guitar hanging on the wall. Gitlis stands on one of the luxurious carpets, though he does some perambulation when things hot up; always though he plays with his eyes shut. Someone had the good sense to film from the back as well, so we get some important shots of Gitlis’s thumb position and the placement of the thumb joint on the violin neck; this back-of-the- fingerboard work is instructive. During the Bartók we get a cut to the intently listening Gavoty in a rather fancy “double exposure” shot – unnecessary but of its time. Gitlis takes a suitably capricious tempo in the Elgar, broadening his tone for the espressivo section. His staccatos are predictably remarkable.

The Wieniawski is studio-filmed as part of a TV show segment in front of a very with-it audience; young, restless and ready for Truffaut. Gitlis looks much more relaxed as well. Back to a carpet swathed studio for the Saëns-Saëns. Gitlis is now in roll-neck and some ass has insisted he stands ahead of the piano thus making a better shot but rendering co-ordination with Georges Pludermacher non-existent. The Moszkowski and Albéniz come from Guy Béart’s TV arts programme in 1973. Gitlis’s hair has grown longer with the times; his sideboards too. The audience is heavily-bearded (male) and mini-skirted (female) and quite close to the two musicians.

The main meat of the DVD though is the Tchaikovsky Concerto.  The orchestra is the estre de l’ORTF suffering catatonic boredom under maestro di maestri Francesco Mander. This gallant gentleman conducts like a grisly mating of fly fisherman and Valentino-era gigolo. Spruce, elegant and with a swishing baton that he dips speculatively toward the serried ranks of French indifference, Mander, when not thus engaged, conducts with his left hand firmly on his hip. I studied the band carefully and the only musicians who show any vestiges of verifiable life are two wind players who actually move when they play. As for the rest, well, it’s hard to say. The camera cuts away when Gitlis takes off his mute in the second movement but is otherwise unobtrusive, one bout of madly fast left-right panning shot excepted – a sort of speeded up tennis rally shot of the woodwinds.

There’s a so-called bonus but a weird one. Firstly I’ve no idea why these are called “bonuses” as the whole DVD only lasts seventy-five minutes. And secondly what a strange one. Gitlis is seen in what amounts to a blackout playing La Campanella from Paganini’s Second Concerto. The notes say he’s miming but surely not. He’s playing along to a soundtrack of his recording with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra and Stanislaw Wislocki. The soundtrack is what we actually hear.

So we have here just over a decade’s worth of Gitlis in a variety of surroundings, all filmed in black and white. The earliest examples are the Janopoulo performances from 1962 and the most recent the 1973 Pludermacher. Gitlis is a fascinating figure, often crudely characterised as a maverick, whereas his thoughtful and inventive-minded individuality allied to a Huberman-influenced musicianship has always been at a distinct remove from convention. His many admirers will welcome these excellent and characteristically idiosyncratic examples of his art.

Jonathan Woolf


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