If this set of the Hungarian Dances was really made in 1998,
when Shumsky would have been eighty-one, then it demonstrates
that he retained that fabled technique almost to the very end.
He died in 2000. As with so many other MusicMasters discs on
Nimbus recording details such as this are sketchy, to say the
least, and we can’t be sure as to the recording location(s)
involved. (see below)The acoustic is a touch billowy for my
taste, and there was, from the sound of it, more than one session
involved to tape the entire set of twenty-one. Still – what
I needn’t reprise my admiration for the violinist but shall
register, once again, my disappointment that more of his London
concerts were not preserved. His Barbican Elgar Concerto was
astonishingly good. Equally evidence does exist of his Brahms
Concerto – you can see the film on YouTube – and the sonatas
have recently been released by Nimbus, which means that his
Brahms discography is now happily extended one way or another.
Let’s also not forget the fabled Primrose Quartet recording
of the Op.67 Quartet; Shumsky was the first violinist in that
Richness of tone, timbral variety, sleights of bowing sophistication,
rapidity of expressive gestures, a kaleidoscopic control of
rubati, and an ethos of absolute conviction mark out these performances.
Sample the masculine traversal of the First in G minor to savour
its passionate climax. Or try the control and relinquishment
and re-establishment of the metric pulse in the succeeding D
minor with its elements of pathos as well as its bristling projection.
All these are characterised with commanding eloquence. The noble
patina of the Fourth in B minor with Shumsky’s pleading effusions
and whistling insouciance spiced with melancholy, attests to
an all-round encapsulation of these little emotional dramas.
In the famous Fifth he evinces fire and energy. In the no-less
attractive Seventh in A major we find droll raillery dispatched
with nonchalant elegance and variegated tone; charm in abundance.
The Tenth is a kind of Hungarian hoe-down spiced with knowing
rubati by Shumsky and his able collaborator Frank Maus. The
subtle evocations of the D minor (No.11) are duly explored whilst
the youthful brimstone of the G minor (No.16) respond finely
to the undiminished fire of the veteran fiddler. There is pathos
in the Magyar-Semitic caste of No.17, and sonorous expressivity
in No.20 in D minor. The pirouetting and effortless sounding
E minor brings home the goods in resounding style.
I hadn’t encountered these performances before, which makes
their appearance here so welcome a surprise. And surprises of
this kind can’t come along too often.
See also review
by Nick Barnard
Adrian Farmer of Nimbus adds:
The recording of the Brahms Hungarian Dances were made in the
ballroom studio at Wyastone Leys by Nimbus. The two day session
proved to be the last recordings Shumsky made with us. I don't
have an exact date to hand, because we have no documents relating
to the session in the files, but late 1980s would be about right.
Prior to release our wonderful but
often stormy relationship with Oscar came to an end and we gave
him the Brahms tapes as a parting gesture of goodwill. He passed
them to MusicMasters, and through this circular route, 20 years
on, they have found their way home to Wales. I produced all
of Oscar's Nimbus sessions and never ceased to marvel at his
consumate command of the instrument. The session that most stays
with me was the first - the Ysaye Solo Sonatas - he simply stood,
relaxed and motionless and delivered these monstrously diffcult
pieces with no apparent strain and with very little request
for help from the editor's razorblade. He was a master.