Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12/2 [15:40]
Violin Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23 [14:30]
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F major Op.24 'Spring' [19:39]
Joseph Bernstein (violin)
Ella Goldstein (piano)
rec. 1949, New York. Mono.
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1271 [50:52]
As forgotten recordings go, I’m certain that
these Concert Hall Society recordings of three Beethoven violin sonatas
from 1949 won’t be remembered by many. The violinist is Joseph
Bernstein (1914-1976), who could boast impressive credentials. Born in
Bessarabia, he was a pupil of Arnold Rosé, who was concertmaster of the
Vienna Philharmonic for over half a century, and leader of the renowned
Rosé String Quartet. He then finished his studies with Carl Flesch and
George Enescu. In 1937 he became first violin of the Palestine Symphony
Orchestra, which had been founded the previous year by Bronislaw
Huberman. Whilst there he formed the Tel Aviv String Quartet. In 1947
he relocated to the States and taught at Tanglewood and at the Hart
College of Music. Between 1959-1971 he acted as assistant concertmaster
of the New York Philharmonic. His partner in these recordings is the
pianist Ella Goldstein (b.1927). She was born in Harbin, China. She
made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1947, and in 1953 won first prize in
the Ferruccio Busoni Competition.
This selection of three sonatas is all the more pleasing in that, apart
from the ‘Spring’, the performers have opted for two of the lesser
performed works. Bernstein’s playing has immense appeal. He possesses a
warm tone, enhanced by an extremely flexible vibrato, which yields a
substantially varied tonal palette. I’ve never heard him in any other
repertoire, but his Viennese years with Rosé surely have contributed to
a sympathetic affinity with this music. He projects well, and his
communicative powers draw the listener into the music-making. His
musicianship is impeccable.
He is blessed with a sympathetic collaborator in Ella Goldstein. I
don’t know how often they worked together, but I would imagine
regularly on the evidence here. Matching phrasing, dynamics and
singularity of vision are compelling. A good example is the finale of
the Second Sonata in A major, which comes over as a genial dialogue
between two intimate friends; I’ve rarely heard it done so well. The
ubiquitous ‘Spring’ abandons stale routine for a performance intensely
engaging, intuitive and fresh-sounding. The Adagio is expressive and
oozes beguiling lyricism. The Scherzo is impish, with the off-beat
responses from the violin rhythmically crisp.
Not always the case with this label, this release comes with some
interesting notes, written in French by the violinist Alexis Galpérine.
The fine transfers are stated to be from Concert Hall Society LPs,
which appear to have been very well-preserved.