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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor (1903) [28:07]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D (1878) [31:37]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto in A minor (1904) [20:10]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham (Sibelius); Sir John Barbirolli (Tchaikovsky, Glazunov)
rec. November 1935 (Sibelius); March 1937 (Tchaikovsky); March 1934, Abbey Road, London (Glazunov); digitally re-mastered, 2006
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 3 61590 2 [80:13]



Heifetz was born in 1900 in Vilnius, Lithuania and thus was in his mid-thirties at the time of these recordings and arguably at the peak of his career. He had played the Tchaikovsky Concerto in Berlin under Nikisch in 1912, after entering the St Petersburg Conservatory, aged just 10!
 
As Tully Potter remarks, “Jascha Heifetz was the violinist’s violinist, acknowledged by his peers for his tonal brilliance, sensual cantilena and exceptional technical polish. At best, he played the concerto and sonata repertoire with a strong command of structure, coupled with minute attention to detail. He held the violin high and flat, and kept his right elbow particularly high, which enabled him to exert maximum bow pressure …”
 
Heifetz had actually recorded the Sibelius Concerto with Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia but there was a lack of chemistry between conductor and soloist and the result was a disappointment. In late 1935, Heifetz’s second attempt with the much more committed and sympathetic Sibelian conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, was received with delight by fans of the composer around the world. Indeed this recording is still held in the utmost esteem, some pundits even going so far as to claim it has never been surpassed. Certainly, hearing it today one is bowled over by its glorious sonorities, warmth and tenderness and flawless intonation and its dramatic intensity. The engineered sound, impressive for its day, has been cleanly digitally refurbished for enhanced clarity with the soloist well spotlit.
 
Heifetz’s virtuoso reading of the technically taxing Tchaikovsky Concerto is tremendously exciting and emotionally charged - how beautifully tender is the Andante - and he receives fine support from fellow string player, the former cellist, Sir John Barbirolli. The orchestral sound is not quite so well focussed but the ear soon adjusts.
 
Although Heifetz’s fellow Auer pupil, Nathan Milstein, had a closer connection with Glazunov, he was recognised as the other great interpreter of this lovely work. Heifetz’s effortless, silken virtuosity fills a reading that fully realises the Glazunov Concerto’s sweet nostalgia and gentle regret, its passions and the robust joys of its Finale.
 
Three classic readings by virtuoso Heifetz at the height of his powers. A bargain not to be missed.
 
Ian Lace

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