Record companies are slowly getting to grips with the history
of the Four Seasons on disc. Molinariís pioneering account,
re-clothed for string orchestra sans soloist, has appeared
on an Italian label, and the first ever recording of the "real
deal" by the sumptuous Louis Kaufman has recently been
issued by Naxos. An off-air Campoli performance with Boyd Neel
has come out on Pearl. To these the inquisitive fiddle-fancier
can now add Doremiís restoration of Berlin-born Julian Olevskyís
recording of the entire cycle of twelve concertos that make
up Op.8 [Doremi DHR 7837/38]. Set down circa 1954 with
no less than Hermann Scherchen on the podium this is a rare
opportunity to hear a most impressive talent, one whose career
never really breached the upper echelons of the performing circuit
and whose recordings have never achieved wide recognition. Yet
thanks to Doremi we can now experience the complete cycle of
Mozart sonatas for piano and violin and the Bach Sonatas and
Partitas. In the release under question Tahra has chosen The
Four Seasons from the Op.8 set, coupling it with the Gloria.
Olevsky was of Russian origin but was born in Berlin in 1926
moving to Argentina in 1935. There he studied with a violinist
of distinction, if somewhat retrogressive technical equipment
by then, Alexander Petschnikoff. Moving to America after a debut
with Fritz Busch he made a number of discs for Westminster,
had a good if unspectacular career and proved a good teacher.
He died aged only fifty-nine in 1985.
He was about twenty-eight when he went to Vienna to record the
Vivaldi, accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and
Itís an uneven set. Olevsky was a fine player, elegant, warm
if not opulently toned, and one who seldom had recourse to portamenti
though he certainly did to expressive diminuendi. His contribution
is fine if not especially personalised; I donít think youíd
note any distinguishing characteristics. Which is not to say
that his playing is cool or uninteresting; on the contrary.
The dominant force however is Scherchen. He makes sure the harpsichord
is prominent throughout and certainly brings out some "interesting"
harmonies in the slow movement of Spring Ė see-sawing
strings, desolate middle voicings. His finale is also relatively
slow and the tuttis donít really register, which may be a fault
of the recording. The conductor insists on quite a bit of rubato
in the opening of Summer and devitalised speeds for the
slow movements of this and Autumn, albeit Scherchen explores
the melodic and harmonic implications of Autumnís slow
movement with real sagacity. Thereís good bass pointing in the
same concertoís finale with fine instrumental exchanges but
the opening of Winter now sounds merely dogged. Its slow
movement must be one of the most heroically badly recorded in
history. What possessed the engineers, or Scherchen, or Olevsky
to allow the orchestral string pizzicatos almost entirely to
obliterate Olevskyís solo line? So a very uneven listening experience.
Olevsky is a pleasing soloist, well mannered, technically eloquent,
tonally accomplished, just without being able to assert much
personality on the proceedings.
The Gloria shows Scherchenís strengths in vocal music.
Though by this time the weight of the choral contribution was
coming to be seen to be a little ripe, nevertheless the sense
of commitment is palpable. Scherchen encourages brisk punctuating
brass in the opening movement, and an expressive slow tempo
for Et in terra pax hominibus, the strings bringing a
relatively lightly burnished colour to the musicís texture.
Laudamus te is taken at a stately tempo, whilst thereís
lovely phrasing in the Domine Deus. The vitality of the
jog-trotting Domine Fili is also fine, the organ contribution
especially in the Qui tollis also notable. The three
soloists make a notably fine contribution.
This is a good example of Scherchenís sensitive exploration
of the repertory and is heard in a fine transfer. Tahraís work
is decidedly better than Doremiís in The Four Seasons, being
possessed of greater definition and clarity.