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Isaac Stern (violin)
Live - Volume 3
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Trio No 1 in B flat major, D 898 (1827-28) [36:18]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (1878) [39:03]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) [28:01]
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto (1880 rev. 1882) [30:47]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Concerto in C major, H. VIIa/1 (c. 1765) [20:48]
Paul Tortelier (cello), Arthur Rubinstein (piano) (Schubert)
USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Yevgeny Svetlanov (Brahms and Mendelssohn)
New York Symphony Orchestra/Dimitri Mitropoulos (Dvořák)
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Leopold Stokowski (Haydn)
rec. 1967, Israel Summer Festival (Schubert); 26 May 1960, Moscow (Brahms, Mendelssohn); 4 March 1951, Carnegie Hall, NYC (Dvořák); December 1949, Carnegie Hall, NYC (Haydn)
DOREMI DHR8131-2 [75:26 + 79:45]

Released to mark the centenary of Isaac Stern’s birth, this is the third in Doremi’s series devoted to his live readings. This volume focuses on concerto performances though also includes an excellent performance of Schubert’s Trio in B flat major. This is something I’ve never heard before and as one of a possible minority who admires Stern’s chamber music performances even more than his concerto ones, it’s been exciting to hear it. It was recorded at the Israel Summer Festival in 1967 and Stern joins illustrious confreres, Paul Tortelier and Arthur Rubinstein. I’m not aware that they were recorded together in any other circumstance, though both Stern and Tortelier performed at Prades in the early 1950s.

The sound is acceptable, albeit Rubinstein seems just a shade recessed. The playing is full of felicitous exchanges and a sense of magnanimity and affection. The overriding impression, given subtle rubati and dynamics, is of corporate sensitivity. Stern’s famous reading with Rose and Istomin and Rubinstein’s equally famous one with Heifetz and Feuermann are both very different and it won’t surprise you to know that the latter is significantly more tensile. This Israel Festival performance is rather quicker than the Stern-Rose-Istomin LP, especially in a very much more lithe reading of the slow movement.

Stern visited Russia in May 1960 and the Brahms and Mendelssohn concertos come from a single evening in Moscow. This brace has appeared before on Great Artists in the Moscow Conservatoire SMC CD0023, a disc I’ve never come across. Svetlanov and the USSR State Symphony accompany. Stern was consistent in these concertos, especially the Brahms, where his tempo for the finale was remarkably consistent across the years. The Svetlanov reading reminded me most of Stern’s recording with Ormandy, as the opening movements with Mehta and Abbado were just a touch slower. The slow movement works especially well in Moscow, warmly textured and with real communicative power, whilst in the finale Svetlanov ensures the winds phrase with personable animation. I’ve always found Stern a masculine Mendelssohnian, fully charged romanticism to the fore but one who makes a clear differentiation between the moods of the first two movements. He is appropriately graceful in the Andante where he finds necessary repose before essaying a buoyant finale. Svetlanov once again is a loyal colleague.

Stern recorded the Dvořák concerto a couple of times, most famously with Ormandy in Philadelphia, one of his best studio inscriptions. This 1951 New York/Mitropoulos performance is faster in the outer movements than that Philadelphia reading, granting an increase in adrenalin though at the expense of some rhythmic detailing but Mitropoulos is invariably an invigorating accompanist. The Haydn Concerto, a work that was a constant repertoire companion, has recently been disinterred by Pristine Audio. Doremi has retained the spoken introduction to this performance, which Pristine does not do, and has also preserved the rather acidic bright sound. Pristine’s restoration (see review) has sought to limit this brightness, and a bit of aural congestion, by slightly dampening the sound and is consequently less immediate.

This has the now-familiar one-page biography of the violinist by Jack Silver and should prove a valuable ancillary purchase for the Stern aficionado not otherwise sated by Sony’s recent, vast 75 CD box.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 



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