Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.47 (1903 revised 1905) [27.26]
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor Op.7 (1826)
Yulian Sitkovetsky (violin)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicolai Anosov (Sibelius)
Moscow Youth Radio Symphony Orchestra or USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mark Pavermann (Paganini)
rec. 1953, Prague (Sibelius) and 1955 Moscow (Paganini)

Yulian Sitkovetsky was one of the violinists for whom phrases like "jaw-dropping" were invented. His status as a near legendary figure was compounded by a tragically early death at the age of thirty-three - his nearest American parallel in that respect was Michael Rabin, his nearest European, Ossy Renardy - and also by the rarity of his discs in the West. Two labels have worked hard on his behalf, Aulos and Artek. But now we have a single contribution from Pristine Audio which conjoins one of his more problematic concerto performances, the Sibelius, with a brilliant but scrappily recorded Paganini concerto.

For the Sibelius. he was joined in Prague by the Czech Philharmonic under Nicolai Anosov (the father of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky), a splendid conductor I’ve had reason to praise in review here for his high class Liszt accompaniments for Ginzburg in Moscow. Here we are again - he’s splendid. We hear the soloist’s very fast vibrato, especially in the upper two strings, and that characteristic nutty sound in the middle of his register. It’s a feature of his playing that the lower strings don’t sound as quickly and seem rather less responsive. Despite the recession of the live concert acoustic the orchestra is well marshalled and any brass blare is probably an acoustic matter. Try to listen out for those Dvořákian winds - no other word will do - in the first movement and also to the dazzlingly well-played left hand work in the cadenza. Brass statements are big and bold, the performance pretty speedy and very exciting - in truth a little too much so. Despite the fact that he has always been compared with Kogan Sitkovetsky was by now very much his own player. One or two moments at the climax of the first movement suggest a Heifetz influence, and indeed he takes a Heifetz kind of tempo throughout. Another characteristic of the performance is that he often attacks from slightly under the note and this compromised intonation recurs though it’s not overly problematic if you listen through it. It’s a young man’s performance from the teaky middle voicings to the fast upper ones, and he imparts tremendous varieties of colour and characterisation in the second movement - it becomes a kaleidoscopic character study in his hands in effect. This narrative gift serves him well - the fervour is unceasing and the graph of the movement is charted with feverish intensity. Certainly some tone production in the finale can be a touch glassy but he slashes into the harmonics and drives to the final bars with panache. It’s certainly not one for patrician Sibelians or those who admire Anja Ignatius’s wartime recording but the world can encompass a wide range of readings and this is certainly one of those.
The Paganini was taped two years later in Moscow with an orchestra here named as the Moscow Youth Radio Symphony Orchestra, though in previous releases it was always ascribed, I believe, to the USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra. Of one thing we’re sure; the conductor was Mark Pavermann. Sitkovetsky is brilliant in this work, though occasionally, a feeling exacerbated by the recording quality, inclined to be brusque, even rough. But he is technician of exceptional panache, a lordly exponent, held in spotlight due to the very upfront perspective. There is fire in his harmonics, and real devilment in the Campanella finale.
Aulos’s transfer of the Sibelius [Aulos Music AMC2-054] was taken direct from the master tapes, it appears. Artek’s transfer of the Paganini - volume 4 in their Sitkovetsky series - was not so fortunate [AR 0030-2]. Pristine Audio has gone for the Big Bertha approach, as always. This makes the dynamics in the Paganini very much more visceral and indeed dramatic than the LP - and the CD on Artek - which was a lot flatter. Graph work has bulked it up. It’s also imparted a touch more glass to the sound than the Artek. It’s horses for courses, I suppose, but in the main work, the Sibelius, I strongly prefer the Aulos.
Jonathan Woolf

The fervour is unceasing and the music is charted with feverish intensity.