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Violin Concerto (rev.1945) [26:53]
Havanaise, Op. 83 [9:19]
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
Suite im alten Stil, Op. 10 [11:46]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Violin Concerto No. 2 ‘The Prophets’ (1931) [29:27]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra/William Walton (Walton)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg (Saint-Saëns)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein (Sinding,
rec. EMI Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London, 26-27 July, 1950 (Walton);
Sound Stage 9, Republic Pictures Studio, Hollywood, 18 June 1951,
9 December 1953 (Sinding) and 28-29 October 1954 (Castelnuovo).
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111367 [77:25]
It’s hardly surprising that Naxos Historical’s Great Violinists
series already features several Heifetz
recordings, including his 1949 recording of the original
score of the Walton Violin Concerto, coupled with his
1941 version of the Elgar Violin Concerto on 8.110939
– see review.
Now we have his 1950 recording of the revised version of the
Walton, in re-mastered sound as bright as a button and coupled
with three other recordings from the early LP era. The back
cover of the CD refers to Heifetz’s polished elegance, but there’s
more to it than that. Some of Paganini’s contemporaries thought
that he’d sold his soul to the Devil to obtain such mastery
of the violin: they might well have thought the same of Heifetz,
when everything here seems grist to his mill.
Only the availability of the same Heifetz recording of the Walton,
coupled with other Walton works on a very inexpensive 2-CD RCA
set – details at the end of the review – gives me any grounds
The Walton concerto was composed for Heifetz and, while it’s
good also to have more recent versions, notably from Nigel Kennedy,
with the Viola Concerto (not currently available?), Kurt
Nikkanen (Nimbus NI6119
– see October
2010 Download Roundup), and Naxos’s own digital recording
with Dong Suk-Kang, a splendid bargain coupled with the Cello
Concerto (8.554325 – see review
2008 Download Roundup), Heifetz still reigns supreme, with
Walton and the Philharmonia providing excellent support and
Mark Obert-Thorn excelling himself with a transfer which makes
the recording sound almost as if it were made yesterday. Even
the limitations of mono hardly seem to matter.
After the Walton, the Saint-Saëns Havanaise inevitably
sounds somewhat trite. Naxos have chosen to present these recordings
in the chronological order of their setting down, but I could
have wished the Walton to have been left until last. Nevertheless,
it’s churlish to complain when Heifetz weaves his magic here,
too, ably abetted by the RCA Orchestra and William Steinberg.
The Sinding Suite is more substantial and it, too, receives
a performance that makes me wonder why we don’t hear this work
as often as the composer’s Violin Concerto. This recording
is rightly regarded as a Heifetz special.
The final work, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s ‘Prophets’ Concerto was
also composed for Heifetz. As the notes observe, though it pre-dates
his time in Hollywood, it does have a Technicolor quality not
unlike Respighi or Korngold. Once more the music presents no
problems for Heifetz and the LAPO under Wallenstein. Beecham
used to have the knack of making good second-rate music sound
first-rate and that’s exactly what all concerned do here.
I’ve already praised the quality of the Walton transfer but
the whole of the rest of the programme has received equally
fine re-mastering. I’ve heard some fine transfers recently from
Beulah and High Definition Tape Transfers, but nothing to excel
what I hear on this CD. There were just a few moments in the
Castelnuovo-Tedesco when I felt that the treble needed to be
tamed a little, but it’s not a serious problem.
Naxos already have the superb 1955 Heifez/Reiner recording of
the Brahms Violin Concerto in their download-only series
(9.80081, available in the UK for £1.99). Perhaps they would
consider adding that to the Great Violinists series. For my
money, Heifetz is the exponent of the Brahms, taking
the opening movement at the only speed that makes sense unless
you want to have a work with two slow movements. Only one other
recording, from Szeryng, again with Reiner as conductor, also
from RCA, came close – and that’s deleted.
The only thing that I regret about this fine tribute to Jascha
Heifetz is that it’s not available in the USA and in several
other countries, for copyright reasons. Fortunately, the same
recording of the Walton is available inexpensively* on RCA (2
CDs, 74321925752) . See reviews by John Quinn – here
– and Rob Barnett – here.
Soon recordings of this vintage may not be available in the
EU, either, so snap it up while you can.
* John Quinn thought the Amazon price for this recording was
a mistake: it wasn’t – it’s currently available from them and
our other partners at MDT for even less.