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Erick Friedman (violin)
Live Performances in France 1965-68
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 61 [40:01]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op 64 [26:35]
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)
Chaconne in G Minor [10:06]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No 3 in D Minor, Op 108 [20:26]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G Minor, L 148 [12:07]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Romance in F Major, Op 50 [8:30]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Sea Murmurs [1:56]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Moto perpetuo, Op 11 [4:23]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
Carmen Fantasie [10:38]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fuga, from Violin Sonata No 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001 [5:40]
Joseph Seiger (piano)
Orchestre National de l’ORTF/Wolfgang Sawallisch (Beethoven)
Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF/Serge Baudo (Mendelssohn)
rec. live, September 1965, Besançon, Théatre Municipal, ORTF (Beethoven); 25 February 1966 Paris, Maison de la Radio, ORTF (Mendelssohn); 5 March 1968, Paris, Salle Gaveau, ORTF
MELOCLASSIC MC2034 [67:22 + 74:06]

Erick Friedman (1939–2004) began violin studies with Samuel Applebaum and later became a pupil of Ivan Galamian and Nathan Milstein, yet the violinist who had the most influence on his life was Jascha Heifetz, who he went to aged 17. The maestro extended the greatest compliment by asking him to partner him in a recording of the Bach Double Concerto in 1962. Apparently, Friedman started life as Eric and Heifetz encouraged him to add the k so that his name would have 13 letters like Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler. Heifetz actively discouraged his students from accelerating their careers by the lure of competitions. David Oistrakh encouraged him to enter the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Unfortunately, in a rancorous atmosphere of wheeling and dealing he only tied in sixth place. The negative impact of that temporarily sidetracked his career. Despite some early success, his star eventually waned and he took alternative paths into teaching and conducting. This was compounded by the fact that he was involved in a car accident in Texas in 1986, when he sustained injuries to his left arm and thumb and it took six years of rehabilitation before he could return to the concert stage. In 1989 he took up a teaching post at Yale, where he remained until his death from lung cancer in 2004, aged only sixty-four.

The two concerto performances on CD1 just predate that fateful Tchaikovsky Competition.  In the Beethoven performance, in front of a live audience, Friedman is partnered by the Orchestre National de l’ORTF and Wolfgang Sawallisch. The agreeable sound and the profiling of the soloist in the mix are both striking. The opening movement is broad and spacious, with nobility and stature. I didn't recognize the cadenza. Sawallisch ushers in the slow movement with hushed intensity, the tone being almost reverential. The soloist maximises on expression, and his eloquent phrases instinctively dovetail with those of the orchestra. The finale is rhythmically agile and oozes an infectious and amicable joie de vivre.

The Mendelssohn concerto dates from 25 February 1966. The Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF is directed by Serge Baudo. It's in this work that the stylistic similarities between Friedman and Heifetz are most evident. I fully concur with the writer and commentator Henry Roth who remarked that "Friedman's entire musical personality was practically an extension of the Heifetz muse". The outer movements are relentlessly driven and one is only too well aware of those slides and position changes, which he picked up from the master. What separates him from Heifetz, though, is his leaner and more restricted tonal palette. Applause and announcements in both concertos are retained.

On CD 2, we travel to the Salle Gaveau, Paris for a live recital taped by ORTF on the 5 March 1968. The pianist is Joseph Seiger, better known as the accompanist of violinist Mischa Elman between 1952-1967. The programme consists of music in which Heifetz excelled and recorded. The Vitali Chaconne lacks an individual approach, and is almost a carbon copy of Heifetz's interpretation. Pleading for dramatic intensity, Brahms' D minor Sonata is cast in four movements rather than three and is larger in scale than its two predecessors. There's plenty of courage and conviction in this account, and one feels carried along by the cumulative sweep. In the central ‘Intermède. Fantasque et léger’ and finale of the Debussy sonata, Friedman's suave portamentos, immaculate intonation and flawless technique are worthy of admiration. The Beethoven Romance is lovingly phrased and Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sea Murmurs, an encore Heifetz played at the end of his final recital in 1972, glows with incandescence. Paganini's Moto Perpetuo is crisp in incisive. The Waxman Carmen Fantasie is a virtuosic tour-de-force showcasing all the facets of Friedman's wondrous technical arsenal. The Bach Fuga reveals clarity in its nicely teased-out lines.

The recordings are in very good shape, and the accompanying liner supplies all that is needed. The photo on the booklet shows the violinist employing the Russian bow hold.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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