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Nathan Milstein (violin)
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 [31:24]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
6 Songs, Op. 34: No. 2. Auf Flugeln des Gesanges (On Wings of Song) (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [03:04]
Stephen C. FOSTER (1826-1864)
Old Folks at Home (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [03:41]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ellen's Gesang III (Ave Maria!), Op. 56, No. 6, D. 839, "Hymne an die Jungfrau" (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [04:14]
Schwanengesang, D. 957: No. 4. Ständchen (Serenade) (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [04:20]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
3 Songs, Op. 7: No. 1. Après un rêve (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [02:35]
Ede POLDINI (1869-1957)
7 Marionettes: No. 2. Poupée valsante (Dancing Doll) (arr. L. Anderson for violin and orchestra) [02:45]
Alexander Konstantinovich GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Meditation in D major, Op. 32 [03:26]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Mavra: Russian Maiden's Song, "Parasha's Aria" (arr. S. Dushkin for violin and piano) [03:34]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
2 Mazurkas, Op. 19: No. 2. Mazurka in D major, "Dudziarz" (Le menetrier) [03:36]
Karl BÖHM (1844-1920)
Calm as the Night (Still wie die Nacht), Op. 326, No. 27 [03:24]
6 Romances, Op. 6: No. 6. None But the Lonely Heart [04:28]
Nathan Milstein (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch, rec. 29 March 1953 (Tchaikovsky concerto); RCA Victor Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler, rec. 17, 19 January 1950 (Mendelssohn; Foster; Schubert; Fauré; Poldini); Artur Balsam (piano), rec. 26 February 1949 (Glazunov; Stravinsky; Wieniawski); Gibner King (piano); Ezio Pinza (bass), rec. 17 March 1952 (Böhm; Tchaikovsky)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111259 [70:31]


Nathan Milstein recorded Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto no less than four times with conductors as diverse as Frederick Stock, Charles Munch, William Steinberg and Claudio Abbado. The 1953 recording with Munch has until now been the least known of these, probably because it had limited circulation outside the States; it was issued only in France. This was more to do with record company politics - HMV at the time distributed RCA Victor recordings in the UK, and wanted to promote their recent recording of the concerto with Heifetz rather than Milstein’s version - than a reflection on the performance which is excellent.

In his native Russia as a young man Milstein learnt the concerto under the guidance of Leopold Auer, the virtuoso who famously had initially rejected the work on account of its difficulties, only to become one of its staunchest advocates in later years. There is therefore a real sense of tradition with Milstein’s performance going back through Auer to the composer himself.

Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfer, using a near pristine French LP, successfully captures Milstein’s athletic tone and the weight and body of the Boston Symphony in the spacious acoustic of Symphony Hall. Tchaikovsky is perhaps not the first composer we would associate with Munch but he provides a fine performance of the score, as he did with the Serenade for Strings, among other works. Milstein effectively combines nobility with bravura in a manner that can elude some players.

The remainder of the disc contains a number of arrangements by Leroy Anderson and others of popular pieces by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Fauré and Stephen Foster. These are accompanied by a pick-up orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler and won’t be to all tastes, although in all Milstein’s tone and musicianship is beyond reproach. Foster’s “Old Folks at Home” makes a particularly heartfelt impression, a great artist turning his hand to a musical trifle and in doing so turning it to gold. I’m reminded here of a similar instance: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s performance of “Danny Boy” recorded with Gerald Moore in 1958.

The three violin and piano works with Artur Balsam are played with Milstein’s usual finesse and bravura, and the disc concludes with two tracks in which Milstein duets with the Italian bass Ezio Pinza in Calm as the night and None but the lonely heart. 

In all the above tracks the transfers are excellent combining clarity and warmth with little or no background noise.

Ewan McCormick


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