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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A Minor BWV 1041 (1717-23) [14:00]
Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor BWV 1043 (1717-23) [14:53]
Violin Concerto No.2 in E Major BWV 1042 (1717-23) [15:48]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto in A major No.5 Turkish K219 (1775) [26:08]
Jascha Heifetz (violin; both violins in the Double Concerto)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein
rec. December 1953, Republic Pictures Studios, Hollywood
RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra/Franz Waxman
rec. October 1946, Hollywood
London Symphony Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent
rec. May 1951, Studio No.1 Abbey Road, London
NAXOS 8.111288 [70:50]
Experience Classicsonline

Heifetz only left behind these single examples of the Bach A minor and E major concertos. They were recorded with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Alfred Wallenstein in 1953.
 
Heifetz projects the solo line with brilliance abjuring for the most any scintillating eponymous slides and obviously retrogressive devices – except perhaps in matters of trills and fill-ins. His most touching and beautiful playing is reserved for the slow movements, oases of magnificent lyrical phrasing – which are illuminated by myriad dextrous touches, of subtleties of bow pressure, of left hand weight, and the like. Where he is hampered is in the finales. These are rendered instruments of jog-trotting cumbersomeness courtesy of the sticky treacle Los Angeles orchestra and their conductor, who seems unwilling or unable to get them out of a rut. There is a harpsichord, barely audible but at least it’s there. Of the two performances I prefer the A minor. There is something hooded and very slightly slick that destabilises the opening of the E major for all its undoubted eloquence. The same concerto’s slow movement, which in many ways is as gloriously played as the companion, is also over-recorded; too much so for its full measure of lyricism to emerge properly scaled.  But the finale problem sabotages the thing once more – too rhythmically inflexible, and too marshalled in the tuttis. As violin playing it’s all obviously superb but as performances in the round inferior to the almost contemporaneous Szymon Goldberg traversal of the E major.
 
Heifetz was later to re-record the Double Concerto with Erik Friedman. Here he takes things to their ultimate conclusion by multi-tracking his own second part - actually the second part is generally the one fiddlers prefer. The sound is more congested back in 1946. This ne plus ultra of Heifetzian hauteur is at its most intense in the slow movement where questions of phrasing, tonal and timbral variety are at their most pointed and intense. Heifetz reserves the most latitude for the finale where he indulges in some of his eponymous slides and broadens phrasing commensurately.
 
The non-Bachian contribution is a rather staid Turkish Concerto with frequent collaborator and sometimes recipient of Heifetz’s displeasure, Malcolm Sargent. Highlights include the brilliantly dispatched Joachim cadenzas. Demerits include a rather exaggerated view of the finale where we find some over emotive tone and over-nonchalant ascending and descending runs. Sleeve note writer Tully Potter blames Sargent’s “cut and dried” conducting but I’d be inclined to blame both men for the faults and for the fact that the thing doesn’t really catch fire. Heifetz’s first discographic thoughts on the Turkish, with Barbirolli before the War, were his best: he left behind three commercial recordings of the work in all.
 
But Heifetz admirers will nevertheless welcome the reappearance of these performances at bargain price and in good transfers.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

 


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