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Szymon Goldberg Centenary Edition: Vol. 1: Non Commercial Recordings
Szymon Goldberg (violin solo and conductor) on all recordings unless otherwise indicated.
Released with the kind permission of the Szymon Goldberg Estate.
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1223 [8 CDs: 572:03]

Experience Classicsonline

Though I missed last year's cut off for Record of the Year, I won't be so slack for 2010. One appreciates that releases of this kind speak to a specialised market. And there are duplications in the discography. And, true, it can be argued that some of the recordings are themselves rather murky. But not many are. And the duplications, being live, serve only to enhance, as so often, that extra communicative spirit that drives a musician in the throes of concert-giving. And there is the subject of this 8 CD box, that very special violinist, sometime violist, chamber colleague and conductor, Szymon Goldberg.

The first disc is devoted to Bach, a composer (like Mozart) with whom the classicist Goldberg was much associated. There are examples of his violin playing and direction of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. In the A minor Concerto one can admire the great warmth and sense of expression he cultivates in the slow movement in particular. The E major is undated but has similarly unforced eloquence. It's a real pleasure to hear the late Marcia Curcio in the D major Brandenburg Concerto and so too the flautist Adriaan Bonsel. The sense of communing intimacy cultivated by these superior and selfless musicians informs the whole concerto. The Sixth Brandenburg derives from the same concert as the A minor solo concerto. Here Goldberg plays his viola.

The other item that comes from that 1960 concert is the Concerto in D minor for Oboe and Violin, which opens the second disc. The oboist is the august Haakon Stotijn. They make as effective team as did Menuhin and Goossens in their celebrated recording of around the same time. The remainder of this second disc varies widely. There's a fine Schubert Adagio and Rondo with the orchestra from 1966. The next item though offers a surprise. It's the 1953 commercial recording Goldberg made of Schumann's A minor Violin Sonata in New York with Artur Balsam. It's the only commercial recording in this otherwise all-live set and was included at the request of the late Miyoko Yamane Goldberg. Balsam also recorded this with Louis Kaufman but the Decca he made with Goldberg is a study in tonal and expressive contrasts. The ensemble is splendid, the performance tasteful but committed. It may be anomalous but I'm glad it was included. The Dvo?ák Romantic Pieces suffer from indifferent sound but are hugely communicative. The Debussy Sonata again has only so-so sound. Sleeve note writer Tully Potter rates the performance very highly but I rate it lower. It's less tense and evocative than Franco-Belgian performances - those of Dubois or Francescatti, say - and though it is certainly evocative it's slightly too slow.

Disc 3 gives us the 1950 performance of the original manuscript version of Beethoven's Concerto with Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York and Dimitri Mitropoulos. The differences are few, though one does listen out for the novelties. The performance is noble-seraphic. Coupled with it is the Brahms Double Concerto with Zara Nelsova and Oakland Symphony under Gerhard Samuel (1967). They make a formidable team, the two great string players, and we are fortunate to have this inscription as neither recorded it in studio conditions. The ensemble is secure and there's strong, urgent playing especially from Nelsova. The sound is patchy and a bit torrid in places.

Three concertos sit proudly in the fourth disc. The Mendelssohn is with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Eduard van Beinum in 1957. It's a beautifully poised and articulate performance of one of the most difficult concertos successfully to bring off. Expressive gestures are pure, and once or twice the conductor lets go with a few emphatic lines that unleash some brisk and pure articulation from the soloist. There's a very slow Andante with sculpted wind harmonies. Mozart's D major is played and directed by Goldberg with his Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. It's undated. There is fresh interplay here, warmly moulded. The slow movement is phrased with great feeling. The final concerto is Berg's. The purity and clarity of the playing stamp it as an important addition to Goldberg's discography. It's with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and William Steinberg and dates from 1952. There's pellucid precision in his playing and the ex-concertmaster, unlike some eminent soloists, retained his impeccable sense of rhythm.

The fifth disc is largely terra cognita if you are a Casals collector. Goldberg and Serkin join Casals for Beethoven's E flat major trio and all three play with spirit; the power, affection and sensitive elasticity of the slow pages in the long opening movement is a real highlight. The Kakadu Variations (June 1954) is equally effective, Goldberg making a good fist of ensemble tonal pairing with Casals - not easy by this stage. Music & Arts CD-1113 has both these performances in a big 13 CD box of live Prades material. This disc ends with a real rarity however. The pianist Victor Babin accompanies Goldberg in his own Konzertstück, a twenty minute piece that varies from Passacaglia-like seriousness to jaunty march themes and concentrated reflective slower sections. You could hardly hope to encounter a more authentic performance of the Babin than that one; how many have played it since?

We return to Prades in the sixth disc for the Ghost Trio with Casals and Horszowski. The violinist is in excellent form once again managing the difficult feat of a decent ensemble with Casals whose sepulchral entries in the Largo assai are tremendously intense. Again this is on the M&A set referred to above. Goldberg plays Haydn's Concerto in C major with exemplary purity of tone and sustained legato in the slow movement over the pizzicato accompaniment. Schwarzkopf is the soprano visitor in the scena Non parti bell' idol mio - Berenice, che fai? and proves regal under Goldberg's direction. There is one solo Bach Partita and one Sonata, both recorded in the BBC studios in 1970. Though he was quite well past his best and his tempi are considered he still retained directional security in the G minor Sonata, vesting its Presto finale with fire. In the D minor Partita he reserves the greatest sense of drama, naturally, for the Chaconne. He alternates legato with biting lower string articulation, and plays in a linear way with hugely effective drone effects. Again the Beethoven sonata, that ends this disc, is available in the Casals Prades box. I greatly admired the Goldberg-Horszowski partnership in the Op. 30 No.1. There's freshness, lithe attack, expressive tone colour, beautiful shaping, and real characterisation.

The final disc is another treat, all recorded at the Aspen Festival in the mid 1960s. There are patrician elements to his playing of the rigorous and exacting Bartók solo sonata and these lend the performance quite a refined sense. It contrasts with those grittier, more folkloric traversals. There are some buffeting noises on the tape. His Stravinsky Duo Concertante is cleverly textured - the Dithyrambe in particular is unusually expressive in his hands. His colleague here is Brooks Smith. For the Webern Four Pieces he teamed up with Beveridge Webster for the elucidation of these elliptical and concentrated masterpieces. The performance of Schoenberg's Fantasy, again with Webster, dates from 1966.

In the extensive booklet there is a complete non-commercial discography. Idly flipping through, my eye was drawn to the following; a performance of the Bach Double with Jan Damen in 1950 (once on a Radio Nederland transcription LP but never CD); the Brahms Concerto with Ormandy (1967); the Handel Op.1 No.13 sonata with Brooks Smith, released on a rare LP and CD; Hindemith's solo sonata Op.31 No.1 and a 1978 performance of the Kammermusik, as violist, with Charles Mackerras and the BBC SO; Milhaud's Second Violin Sonata and Concerto de Printemps - both on Goldberg Memorial Fund limited edition CDs; and the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with Abraham Skernik and Walter Susskind conducting. And before I make myself more lustful of the things that may yet emerge, I'd better stop there.

As I noted above, boxes such as these are not for everyone, or even for every specialist. But for me it's a Record of the Year.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track list
CD 1 [77:33]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 [15:45]1
rec. 1960
Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, BWV 1042 [19:42]
rec. undated
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050 [23:18]2
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in Bb major, BWV 1051 [18:46]3
rec. 1960
Janny van Wering (harpsichord)1,3, Marcia Curcio (piano)2, Adriaan Bonsel (flute)2/ Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
CD 2 [76:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in D minor for Oboe and Violin, after BWV 1060 [15:41]
Sinfonia to Cantata BWV 21, "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" [3:24]
Haakon Stotijn (oboe), Janny van Wering (harpsichord)/Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
rec. 1960
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Adagio and Rondo in A major, D. 438 [12:40]
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
rec. 1966
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105 [17:31]
Artur Balsam (piano) [American Decca LP]
rec. 1953
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G minor [13:07]
Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 [10:21]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
"Melodie" from Orfeo ed Euridice arranged Fritz Kreisler [3:31]
Artur Balsam (piano)
rec. 1951
CD 3 [76:36]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (original version) [44:22]
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Dimitri Mitropoulos
rec. 1950
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op.102 [33:11]
Zara Nelsova (cello)/Oakland Symphony Orchestra/Gerhard Samuel
rec. 1967
CD 4 [77:45]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 [26:45]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum
rec. 1957
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218 [24:37]
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
rec. undated
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Violin Concerto [26:18]
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg
rec. 1952
CD 5 [74:45]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Variations in G major on "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu", Op. 121a [21:52]
Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 70, No.2 [34:55]
Pablo Casals (cello), Rudolf Serkin (piano)
rec. 1954
Victor BABIN (1908-1972)
Konzerstücke [20:03]
Victor Babin (piano)
rec. 1966
CD 6 [63:18]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in D major, Op. 70 No. 1, "Geister" [29:59]
Pablo Casals (cello), Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
rec. 1954
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Concerto in C major, Hob. VIIa: 1 [20:42]
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (1966)
Scena, "Non parti bell' idol mio - Berenice, che fai?", Hob.XXIVa: 10 [11:30]
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)/Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
rec. 1958
CD 7 [68:33]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata in G minor for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1001 [18:18]
Partita in D minor for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1004 [25:55]
rec. 1970
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, Op. 30 No.1 [24:11]
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
rec. 1954
CD 8 [57:09]
Béla BARTÓK (1881 - 1945)
Sonata for Solo Violin [27:23]
rec. 1965
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertante [15:18]
Brooks Smith (piano)
rec. 1968
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Four Pieces, Op. 7 [5:16]
Beveridge Webster (piano)
rec. 1966
Arnold SCHOENBERG
(1874-1951)

Fantasy, Op. 47 [8:59]
Beveridge Webster (piano)
rec. 1966
Szymon Goldberg (violin solo and conductor) on all recordings unless otherwise indicated.
Notes in English and Japanese; includes a complete discography of non-commercial recordings. Released with the kind permission of the Szymon Goldberg Estate.

 


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