Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Violin Concerto in D Op. 35 (1945) [23:52]
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
Suite in A minor Op. 10 (1889) [12:31]*
Károly GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 28 (1877) [34:24]+
Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/André Previn
rec. Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh May 1980; February 1979*; January 1977+
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 5096762 [70:58]
This collection, assembled from three different original programs, suffers predictable inconsistencies, but makes for a pleasing listening sequence nonetheless.
The early-digital Korngold recording falls on the ear well enough; some early EMIs didn't. The soloist - perhaps taking his cue from the filigree work, which ducks direct diatonic contours to produce mild, angular dissonances - plays up the haunted, Expressionist element in the writing. This alternates with a bittersweet idiom similar to that of late Strauss. At the same time, conductor Previn, who has made something of a specialty of this concerto - the present recording is his first of three - knows how, and when, to bring out the composer's juicy Romanticism. The climactic tuttis of the first and third movements, with mid-range horns proclaiming the themes in unison, are as resplendent as anything in the composer's movie scores. Oddly, Perlman's intonation isn't as impeccable as one might want, or hope: the exposed high notes soar, and fast scales are dashing and spot-on, but in the more intricate runs, it's as if the pitch doesn't always find time to settle.
The Sinding suite is balanced towards the soloist unduly. The soloist isn't exaggeratedly forward, but the engineers have shoved the orchestra into the background, so detail is clear, but not really immediate. Perlman's deft rendition of the Presto opening movement, a moto perpetuo, is truly a tour de force. The pulse of the slow movement is more Andante than the indicated Adagio, but Perlman brings enough weight and intensity to the tone to reproduce a sense of breadth. The finale generates a good energy, but Sinding doesn't trouble himself to round it off; the music just stops, unsatisfyingly.
Karl Goldmark represents the post-Mendelssohn arm of German Romanticism - the route that didn't lead to Wagner - with this concerto and the Rustic Wedding Symphony hanging onto the fringes of the repertoire. His tunes are appealing and his orchestral textures attractive and varied, giving the liquid Pittsburgh woodwinds, in particular, a chance to shine. The structures sometimes strain for importance. There's something rather endearing about the awkward way the composer shoehorns a full-fledged fugue into the fourteen-minute first movement. Perlman relaxes for this piece, abandoning the "hard sell" he adopts in the other two scores, seemingly tossing off the first movement's most demanding figurations, maintaining the Andante's meditative mood with scrupulous tuning and firm bowing. Previn's support is stylish, keeping a light, springy touch even in that fugue, bringing out the music's charm.
All three performances have their merits, but only the Goldmark is a clear recommendation. Perlman's vaguely modernist approach to the Korngold is worth hearing, but Anne-Sophie Mutter's more conventionally Romantic DG account scores sonically, with the orchestra more vividly registered And a recently released performance of the Sinding suite by Aaron Rosand ("Aaron Rosand in Norway," VAI Audio VAIA 1240-2, 2 CDs) makes it sound more substantial, giving each note more tonal weight in the first movement, leaning on the score's final cadence for a more effective conclusion.
All three performances have their merits, but only the Goldmark is a clear recommendation.