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Ivry Gitlis (violin)
The Early Years, Birth of a Legend
Florencia Batzin (piano)
rec. 1963 Teatro Caio Melisso, Spoleto
RHINE CLASSICS RH-011 [77:45 + 73:58]

The latest tranche of releases from Rhine Classics includes this twofer documenting broadcast performances by Ivry Gitlis between 1949 and 1963. It’s interesting, incidentally, to hear the radio announcers move from a soft G pronunciation of his surname to the more common hard sound.

The first broadcast comes from Lausanne in September 1949 and is in a slightly boxy but still good sound. He plays Hindemith’s Sonata No.3, Szymanowski’s La Fontaine D'Aréthuse and Bloch’s Nigun in typically febrile fashion, his tight, fast, vibrato vesting everything with a real sense of intensity and urgency. That Hindemith second movement therefore is quicksilver and full of youthful life – Gitlis was, after all, only 27 at the time – and the Szymanowski is fervid. Rather fascinatingly we get a glimpse at his participation at the 1951 Long-Thibaud competition where he finished fifth and here he plays the slow movement and a couple of minutes (only) of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, piano accompanied. I assume this is all that has survived. Later that year he can be heard in Bartók’s Solo Sonata though the final movement is abridged – possibly for broadcast timing reasons – in a no-holds barred reading in which passion sometimes triumphs over the niceties of note values. There are items from two 1953 recitals. Chausson’s Počme is a valuable addition in this communicative piano-accompanied reading with Odette Pigault and there’s a warm-blooded Achron Hebrew Melody very different from Josef Hassid’s famously passionate 78. A second version of Nigun appears, this time with André Collard and it’s faster than the 1949 reading with Maurice Perrin.

Gitlis was taped by RAI on tour in Milan in February 1955, from which recital comes a Devil’s Trill that takes a little time to warm up and is then overcome by restless intensity. His Wieniawski isn’t as scintillating as Ruggiero Ricci’s but it’s full of panache nonetheless and if the end of the Polonaise is a little underwhelming the preceding introspective stance isn’t. The sole example of his Bach here is the Chaconne (Spoleto, July 1963) and it sounds impulsive, taut, and full of terse drama with a few prices to be paid in terms of clarity and fingerboard noises-off. The following day he played Brahms’ D minor sonata with Florencia Batzin which gets better as it develops, the opening movement sounding too breathless, the rhythms too pushed. Gitlis plays with a welcome sense of elegance in the slow movement though as ever with him nothing is ever taken for granted, as the cavalier fire of the finale demonstrates. Finally, we revisit the Bartók sonata. It’s a feature of a number of Rhine Classics’ releases that multiple performances of the same work form part of their artist legacy. In Spoleto, fortunately, the finale is intact and it’s noticeable that Gitlis has significantly tightened his tempi all-round. Whether you are content with two performances of the Bartók and of Nigun is not a question I can really answer but certainly his approach to the sonata is sufficiently different to warrant a listen.

There are some nicely reproduced photographs and a mini-biography in the booklet. Gitlis is still happily with us at the time of writing, one of the last remaining real examples of individualism of both person and performing style.

Jonathan Woolf

Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Violin Sonata (No.3) In E Major, IPH 175 (1935) [9:33]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882–1937)
Mythes, 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op.30, M29: No.1 La Fontaine D'Aréthuse [5:27]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Baal Shem, Suite for Violin and Piano: No.2 Nigun [6:16]
Maurice Perrin (piano), rec. 1949, Lausanne
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAOKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.35; 2. Canzonetta [5:05]: 3. Finale. Allegro Vivacissimo - Fades Away at Letter C [1:40]
Odette Pigault (piano), rec. 1951, Long-Thibaud Competition, Paris
Béla BARTÓK (1882-1945)
Violin Solo Sonata, Sz.117, BB 124 [19:15]
rec. 1953 Paris "Concert Des Jeunes Musiciens Français"
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Počme For Violin and Piano, Op.25 [14:16]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre, Op.45 No.2 arr. Pablo de Sarasate [2:44]
Odette Pigault (piano), rec. 1953, Paris
Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943)
Hebrew Melody, Op.33 [5:16]
Baal Shem, Suite for Violin And Piano: No.2 Nigun [5:48]
André Collard (piano), rec. 1953, Paris
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Sonata In G Minor, B.g5 "The Devil's Trill" arr. Fritz Kreisler [11:54]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Capriccio-Valse in E major, Op.7 (1852-53) [6:05]
Polonaise De Concert No.1 In D Major, Op.4 (1852) [4:27]
Antonio Beltrami (piano), rec. 1955 Milan
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Solo Partita No.2 In D Minor, BWV 1004: Chaconne [12:33]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No.3 In D Minor, Op.108 [18:12]
Violin Solo Sonata, Sz.117, BB 124 [19:23]

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