Naxos is producing a good line in Heifetz discs of late. This one focuses on Hollywood recordings made between 1951 and 1954. By ‘Hollywood’ one means those recorded there, either at Republic Studios or, in the case of the Chausson Poème, United Artists. Heifetz’s partners on the rostrum were Izler Solomon, William Steinberg and Alfred Wallenstein, directing variously either the Los Angels Philharmonic or the RCA Symphony.
Despite the fact that they’re very well known examples of his legerdemain, there is still an opportunity to add one or two points of interest when discussing them. The Lalo Symphonie espagnole is performed without the Intermezzo, in accordance with the practice of almost all students of Leopold Auer. The sound is rather blowsy in Stage 9 of the Republic Studios, and this, allied to Heifetz’s own tone production, tends to militate against anything especially Gallic in the performance’s orientation. Still, the second movement is brilliantly nimble, the finale replete with some gorgeous and characteristic slides. The slow movement though lacks, in both tone and immediacy, graver feelings such as one finds in the recordings of the work by Henry Merckel and Zino Francescatti. Indeed Heifetz had come to London the previous year to record the work with Walter Susskind and the Philharmonia, but it didn’t work out to mutual satisfaction, and the recording was never issued, hence this second try in Los Angeles. But the Susskind performance has since been resurrected by Testament [SBT1216] and proves somewhat the warmer performance, with a more sensible balance between solo instrument and orchestra.
In 1945 Heifetz recorded Chausson’s Poème with Pierre Monteux and San Francisco Symphony, another reading that had to wait until the Testament disc for general circulation. It’s a less febrile, more imaginative performance than this rather externalised 1952 version with Solomon. Similarly, the pre-war 78 set of Wieniawski’s Second Concerto with Barbirolli – their collaborations were always superb, and it’s a shame that their falling out led to no performances after the war – is better than this 1954 traversal, once again with Izler Solomon. It’s by no means a poor affair, just too matter of fact. The three remaining items are all first class. Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique offers a rest from the hothouse elsewhere in this spicy selection, whilst Ravel’s Tzigane is the acme of violinistics. His other recordings were piano accompanied; this is the only surviving orchestral version. And finally we have the Saint-Saëns which, whilst still not superior to the Barbirolli recording, has a steely and commanding countenance.
Splendid transfers complete a well programmed disc.
on Naxos reviews