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Isaac Stern (violin) and Pinchas Zukerman (violin, viola)
Joint Recital, Massey Hall, Toronto
rec. February 9, 1976
DOREMI DHR-8099 [74:14]

Towards the end of 1976 Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman made a European tour together playing duos for two violins and for violin and viola with Zukerman taking the viola part. Many will remember the concert at the Royal College of Music in London which was filmed and released on Christopher Nupen’s Allegro Films. Earlier that year, in Toronto 9 February 1976, Zukerman performed a very similar programme, again taking on the dual roles of violinist and violist, this time with his mentor Isaac Stern.

Of the Three Duets for Two Violins, Op 67 of 1824 by Louis Spohr, No 2 is by far the finest and has been titled Grand Duo Concertante. It’s an extremely well-crafted work in three movements, featuring virtuosic passagework, multiple stops and soaring lyrical lines. Both instruments are evenly matched regarding musical material and the virtuosic demands call for instrumentalists of great skill and imagination. Both players succeed admirably in matching tone, articulation, and dynamics in addition to conveying melodic freshness and fantasy.

In Mozart's Duo for Violin and Viola No 1 in G major (K.423), Zukerman takes the viola part. I read somewhere that Mozart preferred to play that instrument in chamber music get-togethers. What amazes me is that Zukerman is not only a master violinist, but equally excels on the viola. The performance works well in terms of phrasing, blend and interplay between the two instruments.

Prokofiev’s neo-Classical Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op 56 is set in four movements with a traditional slow-fast-slow-fast pattern.  It reveals resourcefulness and imaginative compositional skill in the interweaving of the contrasting instrumental textures. There are times when it’s boisterous and aggressive, and other times when gentleness and expressive eloquence hold sway. The Sonata has an animated and spiky finale, angular and busy in its scurrying passagework. Both violinists are well-matched tonally, and this remarkable work gives each of them the opportunity to shine.

The concert ends with two encore pieces, introduced by Stern, with a bit of light hearted French banter thrown in for good measure. The Andante cantabile from Mozart’s B flat duet, K424 is given a warm, tender and ardent rendering – breathtaking.

It’s an interesting and varied programme in more than acceptable sound quality. Applause is retained. This is a remarkable aural document of two wonderful artists, both on top form. I warmly welcome it.

Stephen Greenbank

LECLAIR: Sonata for 2 Violins in E Minor, Op 3, No 5 [10:04]
SPOHR: Duet for 2 Violins in D Major, Op 67, No 2 [17:34]
MOZART: Duo No 1 in G Major for Violin and Viola. K. 423 [15:59]
WIENIAWSKI: Two Etude-Caprices for 2 Violins, Op 18, Nos 1 and 2 [7:51]
PROKOFIEV: Sonata for 2 Violins in C Major, Op 56 [14:43]

LECLAIR: Sonata for 2 Violins in A Major, Op 3, No 4: Giga [3:14]
MOZART: Duo No 2 in B-flat Major for Violin and Viola, K. 424: Andante cantabile [4:33]

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