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Jascha Heifetz – the Master Violinist
rec. 1925-49
see end of review for details
EMI CLASSICS ICON 2173122 [6 CDs: 455:58]
Experience Classicsonline

The majority of these performances will be very familiar to Heifetz collectors and so will the transfers. Discs one and two were remastered in 2006 whilst the bulk of the remaining pieces date to work carried out in 1992-93. The selection certainly meets with my approval ranging across the repertoire as it does and I particularly commend the selection of the smaller pieces which occupies discs five and six and the 1935 Bach recordings enshrined in disc four. The sole item from the 1920s is also here; the Menuet I and II from the Partita in E which was recorded on an early electric in 1925 in Camden, New Jersey. 
 
Heifetz had recorded the Sibelius with Stokowski at the end of 1934 but it remained unissued at the time and didn’t materialise until it was issued in the multi-volume set devoted to the ‘Philadelphia Orchestra Centennial Collection - Historic Broadcasts and Recordings 1917-1998.’ His first commercially issued recording was with Beecham and this justly famous traversal kicks off this set. I’d just note that its ethos is vividly at a remove from the performances of Anja Ignatius and Georg Kulenkampff to cite two near contemporaneous performances. The subtly sustained expressivity exemplified by Heifetz can be heard at full tilt here. For the Tchaikovsky and Glazunov Concertos he was partnered by Barbirolli, who had earlier recorded the Tchaikovsky with a very different Russian player, Mischa Elman. This represents probably Heifetz’s best playing in the Tchaikovsky – at thirty-six he was at his peak. The Glazunov is virile, taut, expressive, full of shading, very different from Milstein’s more aristocratic approach. On this evidence it’s a pity Barbirolli didn’t explore the Glazunov symphonies.
 
Disc two is simply a reprise of EMI 3532142.  Heifetz’s Mozart is an acquired taste and for me it lacks the repose and simplicity of the best performers – say Szigeti, Szeryng, Grumiaux and Goldberg, to name a stellar quartet. His K218 with Beecham lacks what made the same conductor’s pre-war recording of the same work with Szigeti so special – an unforced eloquence devoid of extraneous gesture. K219 with Barbirolli is better, and indeed preferable to the later remake with Sargent but it’s sill over-burdened with masculine qualities. Some people swear by the Beecham-led Mendelssohn of 1949 but I find it aloof and over-nuanced. EMI’s newish noise reduction system has been employed for this volume and the first which I find aurally constricting.
 
Disc three is a virtuoso showcase. You won’t find me dissenting about Wieniawski No.2 and Vieuxtemps 4 – both with Beecham’s LPO but under Barbirolli, and made within a few days of each other in March 1935. The incomparable virtuosity and vibrancy of phrasing is perfectly suited to these two, as indeed it is the post war Sargent-led performance of Vieuxtemps 5, the concerto with the one-minute finale. We also have a Saint-Saëns brace – the usual suspects. If you need to focus on something in particular in this disc let it be the Adagio religioso of Vieuxtemps’s D minor – God-like phrasing.
 
Heifetz’s LP cycle of the complete Sonatas and Partitas of Bach is relatively well known but the individual performances he left in 1935 much less so. These are in truth inconsistent and not always convincing but they are nevertheless powerful, unequivocal statements. The main demerit is the over-tensile approach – the Siciliano of the G minor sonata for example is strongly over-vibrated and would probably have been seen so when the recordings were issued; Szigeti’s Bach recordings of the time are more circumspect in this regard. There’s no doubting the massive cumulative sweep of his Chaconne, though its linearity does come at some cost – it’s very fast.
 
The fifth disc should contain items rare to many. With either Franz Rupp or Arpád Sándor as accompanists Heifetz runs through a miscellaneous selection. He plays Clérambault’s Largo with quivering intensity, Bazzini with expected nonchalance, the Strauss arrangement with luxuriant phrasing and Glazunov’s Méditation with truly beautiful cantilena. He lavishes elastic rubati on the B section of Elgar’s La Capricieuse, gives us his own celebrated arrangement of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Alt-Wien and does the same with his even better known Dinicu.
 
The final disc opens with a not too well known recording of Vivaldi’s Op.2 No.2 sonata with Sándor, with a full complement of Heiftez slides and expressive finger position changes to keep things alive. The Moiseiwitsch Kreutzer sonata is here, a recording with a chequered history; APR has an earlier, unissued 1949 traversal by the two men (see review) on its books in which the balance between the two instruments was far more natural than this skewed-to-the-fiddle 1951 recording – which is maybe why Heifetz vetoed that earlier attempt. Despite the superior sonics of the released set I prefer the earlier performance. The Franck saw Heifetz paired with another heavyweight colleague, Rubinstein, for a titanic and tensile, driving performance, exuding very little Gallic smoke, but including a swankily motoric second movement. My preferences lie with Dubois-Maas and Francescatti-Casadesus but if you accept the virtuosic premise you will find the duo rampantly exciting.
 
This then is a well-chosen selection of vintage Heifetz material. Some of the transfers have been too over-processed for my liking but in the main they are very acceptable older restorations that stand up well. Julian Haylock’s notes are a bonus.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Track details
CD 1 [80:13]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 47 (1906) [28:10]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35 (1878) [31:37]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 - 1936)
Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82 (1905) [20:03]
CD 2 [73:36]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K218 (1775) [21:11]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47)
Violin concerto in D minor (1822) [24:34]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 in D Major K219 (1775) [27:26]
CD 3 [77:03]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor Op.22 (1870) [18:48]
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Violin Concerto No.4 in d minor, Op.31 (1850) [21:10]
Violin Concerto No.5 in a minor, Op.37 (1861) [17:01]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, op.28 (1863) [8:51]
Havanaise, op.83 (1887) [9:11]
CD 4 [72:02]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas and Partitas for Violin BWV 1001 - 1006
Sonata No.1 in G minor BWV1001 [17:47]
Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV1004 [27:16]
Sonata No. 3 in C BWV1005 [21:09]
Partita No.3 in E, BWV 1006 - IV. Menuets I & II [2:33]
Sarabande and Gavottes I and II from English Suite No.3 in G minor BWV 808 [3:13]
CD 5 [77:03]
Louis-Nicolas CLÉRAMBAULT (1676-1749)
Largo in C minor arr. G. Dandelot [4:04]
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
La Ronde des lutins Op.25 (1847) [4:27]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Stimmungsbilder Op. 9 No. 2, An einsamer Quelle arr. Heifetz [3;49]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise No. 1 in D major Op. 4 [4:45]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 - 1936)
Méditation in D major Op. 32 [3:43]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Scherzo-tarantelle in G minor Op. 16 [4:24]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
L'Enfant prodigue - Prélude arr. Heifetz [2:47]
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Suite Espanola Op.47 - No.3, Sevilla arr. Heifetz [4:03]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
La Capricieuse Op. 17 (1891) [3:30]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre, Op. 45, No. 2 [3:08]
Manuel de FALLA (1876–1946)
La vida breve (1913) arr. Kreisler [3:23]
Ernö von DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
Ruralia Hungarica, Op. 32a No.6 (Gypsy Andante) (1923) arr. Kreisler [4:44]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Much Ado About Nothing, Dogberry and Verges (March of the Sentinel) (1918 arr for violin 1920) (arr. Heifetz) [2:19]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Saudades do Brasil Op. 67 No. 9 Sumaré (1920-21) arr. G. Lévy [2:01]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Alt Wien Op. 30 No. 1 Valse arr. Heifetz [3:06]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Trois Mouvements perpétuels (1918)
No.1 Assez modéré [1:27]
No.3 Alerte [2:47]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
English Suite No.3 in G minor BWV 808 - Gavotte I & Gavotte II [3:15]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
King Roger - opera in three acts Op. 46 (1918-24) Roxanna's Song arr. P. Kochanski [4:24]
Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)
Hora Staccato arranged Heifetz [2:14]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 (1878) [8:40]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata in A major Op.2 No.2 RV 31 arr. Adolf Busch [5:54]
CD 6 [76:01]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major Op. 47, ‘Kreutzer’ (1803) [30:49]
Nicoló PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices Op.1
No.13 in B flat major (Allegro) (arr. Kreisler) [3:18]
No. 20 in D major (Allegretto) (arr. Kreisler) [2:49]
No. 24 in A minor (Tema con Variazioni I-X1) (arr. Auer) [7:29]
César Franck (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A-Major (1886) [25:09]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
LPO/Thomas Beecham (Sibelius, Mendelssohn)
LPO/John Barbirolli (Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Mozart K219, Wieniawski No 2, Vieuxtemps 4, Saint-Saens Introduction, Havanaise)
RPO/Thomas Beecham (Mendelssohn, Mozart K218)
LSO/Malcolm Sargent (Mozart Vieuxtemps No.5)
LSO/John Barbirolli (Sarasate)
Arpád Sándor (piano)
Emanuel Bay (piano)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano – Beethoven Kreutzer)
Arthur Rubinstein (piano - Franck)

 


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