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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) [15:17]
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)
Camille SAINT-SÄENS (1835-1921)
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 Jonathan Woolf).

Brian Wilson



 

 




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