Jascha Heifetz Plays George Formby
The Lancashire Toreador [3:13]
Chinese Laundry Blues [2:42]
Leaning on a Lamppost [2:58]
Count Your Blessings and Smile [4:13]
With my Little Stick of Blackpool Rock [2:36]
Hi Tiddly Hi Ti Island [1:47]
My Grandad's Flannelette Night Shirt [3:02]
With my Little Ukulele in my Hand [6:21]
You Don't Need a Licence for That [3:10]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
Benjamin Trusselmont (piano)
Orchestre de la Vallee Blanche/Otto von Frinkenflapp
rec. June 1948, Philharmonic Hall, Geneva, Switzerland (tracks 1-5); July 1948, Chamonix, France (tracks 6-9)
Released in very small numbers in the late 1950s and hitherto known only to a select number of collectors, Jascha Heifetz's album celebrating his close friendship with George Formby, the legendary ukulele playing native of Lancashire, is a surprise release even to his most ardent admirers. I had myself heard rumours of its existence, but, as if it were a musical Loch Ness monster, the establishment remained deeply sceptical about the reality of this long suppressed secret. Even Larry P. Dwyer's exhaustive and indispensible Heifetz biography Fingers of Steel: The Jascha Heifetz Story (Plimpton Press: Albuquerque, 1977) omitted it from the extensive discography. Now we can hear Heifetz's liquid finger work in those Formby hits closest to his heart, and what remarkable listening they make.
These few surviving recordings were the product of a long summer in 1948, when temperatures across Europe bobbed above 25 C for month after month. That year, Formby and Heifetz met in Chamonix, that most vertiginous of Alpine ski resorts and together strode across the hills surrounding Mont Blanc. Robert Fussendorf’s excellent notes relate this summer of music making, which led to the three items recorded with the Orchestre de la Vallee Blanche, under the steady baton of Otto von Frinkenflapp. Heifetz’s own book collection bore the fruits of this encounter, containing personally dedicated copies of Formby’s little known volumes Recreational Bat Watching (Formby was a keen amateur naturalist) and George Formby on Golf.
Heifetz’s fluid finger work spins Hi Tiddly Hi Ti Island into a steamy habanera, with Trusslemont’s piano accompaniment lending an unexpectedly Latin tint to Formby’s northern ballade. The duo is dazzling in Chinese Laundry Blues, which has an improvisatory quality and a startling sequence of triple-stopped madness. Best of all is Heifetz’s intensely nostalgic arrangement of You Don’t Need a License for That, containing nods to the music of Sarasate and the blues sound of New Orleans. Ascent-Classique’s press notes suggest this is a limited release; fiddle fanciers need not hesitate.
Andrew Morris
A treasure from the vaults finally sees the light of day