Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in a minor, Op.82 (1904) [20:38]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Souvenir d’un lieu cher , Op.42 (1878, orchestrated GLAZUNOV)
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Poème for violin and orchestra, Op.25 (1896) [15:07]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Spanische Tänze, Op.22/1: Romanze Andaluza [4:50] (1879)
Six Études for solo piano, Op.52: Caprice en forme de valse (1877,
transcribed for violin and orchestra by Eugène Ysaÿe) [7:50]
Hideko Udagawa (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kenneth Klein
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 1989. DDD
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6316 [63:56]
I should point out that Nimbus don’t seek to conceal that this recording is
by no means new-minted, having been released on the inexpensive Pickwick label
in 1991 (PCD966). At that time the chief rivals in the Glazunov were from
Heifetz and Hendl (RCA, now download only or incarcerated in box sets) and
Perlman and Mehta (EMI, again now in a recent monster box or on vinyl). Of
more recent versions, Julia Fischer with the Russian National Orchestra and
Yakov Kreizberg has received a warm welcome (Pentatone PTC5186059, with Khachaturian
and Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.1).
I’m sorry to report that when I looked at that Fischer recording and the BIS
recording on which Vadim Gluzman with the Bergen PO and Andrew Litton coupled
the Glazunov and Tchaikovsky concertos (BIS-1432, SACD), in Download
News 2013/3, I decided that their quality meant that my copy of the Udagawa/Klein
on Pickwick, which I described as a decent performance, was due for a visit
to the charity shop.
It’s also unfortunate that at the same time as the Nimbus reissue Warner Classics
have just transferred Anne Sophie Mutter’s recording of the Glazunov, with
the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC and Mstislav Rostropovich,
coupled with Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No.1, and Shchedrin from the mid-price
Elatus label to a slightly less expensive reissue (Erato Original Jacket Collection
2564613136, around £7.50). Like the Fischer and Gluzman recordings that Erato
reissue comes with more substantial fare than the Nimbus.
Listening again, I can see what persuaded me to thin the Pickwick CD from
my collection, but I can also hear the evident commitment in Hideko Udagawa’s
playing: no less acute a reviewer than the late Edward Greenfield called it
‘heartfelt’. Her style is a little more old-fashioned than the other recordings
that I have mentioned, but that could be closer to the way that Glazunov expected
the music to sound over a hundred years ago. It’s perhaps significant that
Heifetz, not noted for hanging around, though from an older school of violinists,
matched Udagawa’s tempo for the first movement in his pre-war 78 recording
(Naxos Historical) but had speeded up a notch by the time of his stereo recording
(RCA Living Stereo, download or 6-CD box set).
BIS fit the concerto on one track, so it’s hard to compare Gluzman’s tempi
in the separate movements but I’m not surprised to see that he and Litton
take a whole two minutes less overall. Fischer and Kreizberg adopt very similar
tempi to Udagawa and Klein and are inclined to linger to take in the scenery
in much the same manner, while Mutter and Rostropovich, again recorded on
a single track, take almost exactly as long overall as the Nimbus, but all
three rivals adopt a slightly lighter touch.
Except, that is, in the finale where Udagawa gives a wonderfully freewheeling
performance with no undue lingering, almost making me think that I was wrong
to get rid of the Pickwick version.
This recording gives us all three parts of the Tchaikovsky Souvenir d’un
lieu cher, including the then often omitted central c minor Scherzo
. That’s more commonly offered now, as, for example, by Julia Fischer and
Yakov Kreizberg on their Pentatone recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
and by Gluzman and Litton on their Glazunov/Tchaikovsky coupling (above).
Again Udagawa is a little slower than most in the Scherzo, but there’s
no sense of the music dragging and she’s actually faster than Fischer in the
opening Méditation, without any sense of undue haste, and she gives
a loving account of the closing Mélodie.
Nor is the Chausson Poème too drawn-out, though it’s given quite an
emotional treatment. Just at random I compared Kyung Wha Chung, whose Decca
recording, with the RPO and Charles Dutoit, coupled with the Franck and Debussy
Sonatas, earned a well-deserved Penguin Rosette. Chung draws the music out
more noticeably, taking a whole minute and a half longer. I enjoyed the Nimbus
until I listened to the Decca which adds a whole new perspective to an old
favourite, plumbing its emotions and probing its nuances, yet light and without
sounding sentimental. If you ever saw Chung play, deeply ‘into’ the music
as if in a trance, you can imagine her complete identification with this piece.
Why, when she produced music of this quality, did her recording career seem
to dry up even before the injury that kept her off the stage for so long?
Attractive performances on Nimbus of the two shorter works do little to affect
the issue either way.
The Gluzman and Fischer recordings both come in SACD format and as 24-bit
downloads from eclassical.com. For that reason, but also for the quality
of performance and their substantial couplings, they remain my first choice
for the Glazunov concerto. Yet the Nimbus recording has polished up better
than I recall it sounding on Pickwick.
The Pickwick notes – rather brief as I recall – have been replaced with a
new (2015) and more adequate set by Jonathan Woolf.
I’m sorry not to be as positive about the Nimbus as I was fairly recently
in the case of another Udagawa recording on the same label, Baroque Inspirations (NI6299
– review and
less enthusiastic review by