If your interest in Menuhin doesn’t run to the vast 50 CD and accompanying DVD box set issued by EMI, which I reviewed not so very long ago, you may want to invest in a more focused disc or discs. Here is such an opportunity, an attractively priced three-CD box from Regis that presents seven concertos.
I appreciate that it would have been difficult to fit anything else in on the first disc, but the anomaly here is the Vivaldi, which the track list documentation rather unhelpfully calls the Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.3 No.10. To be precise it’s from L’estro armonico and I think these days the RV number should really be given to cut down on inaccuracies: RV580. Menuhin plays and directs his own Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra. This was his only recording of it and it’s not in that EMI box. Most of his Vivaldi recordings were with the Polish Chamber Orchestra under Maksymiuk or with Camerata Lysy. We also have the G major Mozart Concerto with the Bath Festival forces. This was a famous early hit for Menuhin back in 1935 with his teacher Enescu conducting though this Bath remake and the ECO one, self-directed, were good examples of his late style. He invariably used the Franko cadenzas, but in the later recordings added little extended cadential passages. The first disc ends with the Brahms Concerto with Kempe in Berlin. Whilst his surviving recordings with Furtwängler are magnificent I have always found his wartime April 1943 off-air performance with the BBC Symphony and Boult to be his greatest inscription. That 1943 performance is vivid and athletic, far faster in the opening movement though, interestingly, more measured in the finale than this Kempe-directed one, though it too has strong merits and finds Menuhin in pretty good shape.
The second disc springs a twist separating Bruch from Mendelssohn. The Bruch (Philharmonia/Susskind) is one of several survivors from his Bruch discography – in fact his first concerto recording, made with Landon Ronald in 1931, was of this work. Susskind as ever proves a malleable and attentive accompanist. For the Beethoven we turn to the Vienna Philharmonic and Constantin Silvestri for a performance that hardly effaces those Furtwängler-led ones but which finds him in the somewhat unusual company, on disc, of the VPO. The final disc has that Mendelssohn (Philharmonia/Efrem Kurtz) which goes zippily and may remind one of his encounters in this work with Furtwängler, Enescu and de Burgos. Finally there is the only pre-war performance, the famed 1932 encounter with its composer in the Elgar Concerto, about which little needs to be said other than it’s essential for any reputable Elgar collection. The transfer is perfectly reasonable.
There may be some gap filling possible here, but it all depends how devoted you are to Menuhin.
Violin concertos - Beethoven ~~ Brahms ~~ Bruch ~~ Elgar ~~ Mendelssohn