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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 [29:17]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor, Op. 22 [24:58]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26 [24:59]
Julian Olevsky (violin)
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Julius Rudel
rec. June 1959, Mozart-Saal, Konzerthaus, Vienna

Julian Olevsky (1926-1985) was born in Berlin, taking his first steps on the violin with his father, a professional violinist.  The family relocated to Buenos Aires in 1935, and remained there for about twelve years. Julian took lessons from Aaron Klasse and Alexander Petschnikoff, both former pupils of Leopold Auer. In 1947 he moved to the States, debuting in New York at Town Hall in 1949. This was followed a year later by a Carnegie Hall first. He took up a teaching position at the University of Massachusetts in 1967, where he remained until his premature death from a heart attack in 1985, aged only fifty-nine. His meagre discography is confined mainly to the Westminster label and includes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the Mendelssohn, Bruch, Brahms, Wieniawski’s Second Concerto, Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole and Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas. Together with Forgotten Records, Doremi label has also issued some of them. 

Last year I reviewed Forgotten Records remasterings of the Brahms and Lalo works, adding a plea that they would make available the violinist’s recordings of the Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos. These I had fond memories of from an old, worn Music for Pleasure LP, sporting a stark black cover with central red rose. As far as I can recall, it was these recordings that were my first introduction to these two staples of the repertory. Well, Forgotten Records have just released those two Olevsky readings, together with the Wieniawski Second Concerto. These three works, together with the Lalo, all derive from June 1959 sessions in Vienna with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under Julius Rudel.

Olevsky's fabulous technique, indeed some critics compared him to Heifetz and Oistrakh, and purity of tone are attributes I find compelling in Olevsky's playing. The Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos are a perennial pairing and this version must rank amongst the best. Both concertos are lyrically effusive, and Olevsky, with a warm vibrato, emphasizes this aspect, without over sentimentalizing things. He eloquently projects the line, allowing the music to breathe naturally. The slow movements are particularly effective, revealing a seamless legato. The Mendelssohn finale is crisply delineated and smiles, whilst the Bruch dazzles with verve and elan.

It's a bonus to have the Wieniawski Second included, and it's no less successful. Once again, all the virtuosic demands are met with aplomb. The central Romance is lovingly shaped, and in the finale, marked " la Zingara", Olevsky injects plenty of gypsy swagger, rounding the concerto off with a show-stopping close.

The orchestral playing is clean and focussed, with Redel proving a sympathetic and supportive collaborator. I’m immensely thankful to Forgotten Records for reacquainting me with these superb performances, in transfers that sound vivid and fresh.

Stephen Greenbank


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