Édouard LALO (1823 - 1892)
Symphonie Espagnole
in D minor, op.21 (1873) [31:40]
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820 - 1881)
Violin Concerto No.5 in A minor, op.37 (1861) [19:02]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 - 1921)
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
, op.28 (1863) [9:12]
Shlomo Mintz (violin)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta
rec. 20-27 October 1988, Frederick R Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv. DDD
reissue of Deutsche Grammophon 289 457 8962
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94070 [60:01]  

A delightful collection of lightish French works for violin and orchestra, which tickle the ear and gladden the soul. Lightish to listen to, but a virtuoso minefield for the poor soloist, for behind the very attractive façade is a veritable smörgåsbord of technical difficulties. Virtuosi of Shlomo Mintz’s calibre take these things in their stride and make it all sound like child’s play. I am sure that sometimes they wish it were!
Lalo’s marvellous Symphonie Espagnole is given in the five movement version, and I feel that it works better this way, for the work is fuller and more attractive. From a performance point of view Mintz is in his element here, obviously enjoying the music and having a good time playing it. The problem, for me, is that Mehta’s accompaniment is too heavy for this summer sunshine work. It’s too over-played with too little humour and not enough smiles. Although a virtuoso work, this is also a jeu d’esprit, and, as such, requires the lightest of touches. Oddly, both Mintz’s and Mehta’s views of the piece work fairly well together.
The Fifth Concerto by Henri Vieuxtemps was once a real old war-horse, but I haven’t heard it in years. It may have fallen out of the concert repertoire but there are still 17 different recordings of the piece by 16 different violinists ranging from Lola Bobesco to Jascha Heifetz. Mintz and Mehta are at one here and give a pleasant performance of a pleasant work. There are no highs and lows in this piece, just a nice walk in the musical countryside with some flashy passages and thoughtful melodic material. It might not set the blood boiling but it will give pleasure.
Saint-Saëns’s brilliant Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso has always been a favourite amongst violinists, and it’s easy to understand why this is. It has two contrasting sections which allow the soloist to meditate and sparkle. There’s not much for the orchestra to do, but that isn’t important for we want to hear the fiddle scintillate, and that is what Mintz does here.
If you don’t know them, this disk is a solid introduction to all three works, but for real blistering interpretations, I couldn’t be without Nathan Milstein live at Montreux, on 11 September 1955 with L’Orchestre Nationale de Paris under André Cluytens in the Lalo (Claves 50-2708 - coupled with the Brahms Concerto live in 1960 with the NDR-Sinfonieorchester, under Paul Kletzki) - this is the four movement version but anything Milstein touched became pure gold and that is the case here, so I forgive him his refusal to play the Intermezzo. For the Saint-Saëns go to Michael Rabin with the Philharmonia under Alceo Galliera (only available in a 6 CD set called The Art of Michael Rabin,EMI Classics CMS 7 64123 2).
Bob Briggs  

A solid introduction to all three works.