MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in E minor, K 304 (1778) [10:00]
Violin Sonata in A major, K305 (1778) [10:46]
Violin Sonata in B-flat major, K. 454 (1784) [19:29]
Violin Sonata in A major K526 (1787) [18:37]
Violin Sonata in B-flat major K570 (1789) [14:55]
Oscar Shumsky (violin), Leopold Mittman (piano)
rec. 1951, no location specified
BIDDULPH 85003-2 [73:40]

A child prodigy, Oscar Shumsky (1917-2000) made his concert debut at the age of seven with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski, who declared him ‘the most outstanding genius I have ever heard’. In 1925 he became Leopold Auer’s pupil at the Curtis Institute, before moving on to Efrem Zimbalist. In 1939 he was invited by Toscanini to join the NBC Symphony, taking a second desk seat of the first violins. That same year he joined the Primrose Quartet as first violin. After three seasons, he quit the orchestra and quartet to pursue a solo career, but the War intervened and his solo work had to be put on hold. As an all-round musician par excellence, he dedicated much time to teaching, playing chamber music and conducting. His solo career was somehow squeezed into this demanding schedule. Although he stood firm in the grand tradition of Russian-Jewish violinists, his star was never as prominent as those of David Oistrakh, Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman or Nathan Milstein. In the 1980s he resumed his concert-giving and started anew to make records. The fruits of this Indian Summer can be enjoyed in the many distinguished recordings he made, which are now available on Nimbus.

After the War, Shumsky made a number of recordings for the Concert Hall label. The five Mozart Sonatas under review here were made for the short-lived Allegro label in 1951 and issued on two LPs (AL.99 and AL.112) A year later the company was taken over. He was later to record the complete violin sonatas in the 1970s with pianist Arthur Balsam. This cycle was released on Musical Heritage Society, then on ASV, and is now available on Nimbus as a 4 CD set (NI 2562/65).

When comparing the early recordings with the later Nimbus readings, it’s noticeable that Shumsky and Mittman generally adopt more brisk tempi throughout. This more youthful approach works well. Mittman is a most engaging and sympathetic partner, and whilst there’s much excitement and frisson in the outer movements, the slow movements are graced with seductive eloquence and rapt intensity, enhanced by the richness and bloom of Shumsky’s tone. The Sonata in B-flat major, K.454 is a perfect example. The pure elation radiated in the opening of K.526 is joyous indeed. The slow movement is ravishing and eloquently shaped. Mittman’s fingerwork in the final Presto is breathtaking. The Piano Sonata in B-flat, K.570, a work I know very well from when I studied it when I was younger, is a bit of an odd ball with a violin part added. I’ve never heard it done like this before, and it doesn’t really work for me, though in its first edition it was published with this violin part. Shumsky doesn’t include it in his later cycle with Balsam.

The sound quality of these early recordings in no way matches those of the later ones. Yet, despite the boxy sound, with artistry of this calibre, it’s a price worth paying.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing