Legendary Soviet MC2050

Legendary Soviet Violinists
Concerts in Germany 1950-1977
MELOCLASSIC MC2050 [62:16 + 66:13]

If you were a touring Soviet violinist, it depended on which side of the border you played. For an émigré, as Boris Goldstein was, Hannover was home ground – he was employed as a professor at Würzburg Music Academy – and all the examples in this twofer were recorded there. But if you were Igor Bezrodny or the tragically short-lived Julian Sitkovetsky, then East Berlin and Leipzig were valuable locations where you could dazzle the local audience.

This twofer is especially valuable for access to the live and radio recordings made by Goldstein (1922-1987), a superbly gifted performer, whose career was sabotaged by Soviet discrimination and who emigrated to West Germany in 1974. He had been one of the most prestigious of players, a Stolyarsky pupil, who had so impressed the visiting Heifetz in 1934 that he had wanted Goldstein to study with him in America, something that the authorities denied him. In these performances made between 1975-77 one can hear what the fuss was all about.

His Wieniawski No.1 reveals some Heifetz-like finger position changes but is full of flair and fancy, the technical qualities of his playing being less personalised than the older man but charismatic, nonetheless. His tone in the slow movement is warmly addictive and the Rondo finale, richly giocoso, sees every note securely negotiated in the resonant acoustic of Hannover’s Landesfunkhaus. Zdeněk Mácal accompanies very proficiently. Prokofiev’s Second Concerto, with Yuri Ahronovitch, is just as fine, and here one finds Goldstein’s pacing is well-nigh perfect and the slow movement is beautifully traversed. From 3 June 1977 comes Brahms’ Third Violin Sonata with pianist Kirsti Hjort where the only thing I wrote in my notes was ‘big toned and subtle’ which just about sums it up. This is formidable sonata playing that’s both generously phrased and possesses tonal depth. From the same radio performance comes a triptych of small-scaled Khachaturian pieces – the first rightly songful, as it’s the Song-Poem in Honour of Ashugs and then two Heifetz arrangements; the sumptuously played Ayesha’s Dance from Gayane and – inevitably, perhaps – the Sabre Dance.

These splendidly recorded examples of Goldstein’s art would be enough to entice me to buy this set – he recorded none of it commercially and his recordings were almost exclusively made in the Soviet Union for Melodiya - but there’s more to consider. Igor Bezrodny (1930-1997) was another elite Soviet player, a serial contest winner and Yampolsky student, who performs Handel’s Op.1 No.15 sonata – of which he recorded only the Adagio in the studio – and the Kabalevsky Violin Concerto in which he was recorded only in the slow movement, rather oddly. Here, to our advantage, we get both works complete. His Handel is uneven with a rather slow Largo, taken with unusually expressive intensity, but the Kabalevsky is another matter and more his metier, one feels. It helps that he is paired with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Kirill Kondrashin as they dig in deeply and provide first class support to the soloist who negotiates the spirit and succulence of the concerto admirably. He plays the central movement with characteristic sweetness and lyric grace, then drives into the finale.

Which just leaves Sitkovetsky and the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Leipzig under Franz Jung in Paganini’s Second Concerto. He recorded this with Mark Pavermann in the Soviet Union – it’s on Artek - but Sitkovetsky (1925-1958), who died of cancer at the age of 32, is not represented well on live material (for obvious reasons) which makes this radio broadcast so valuable. He and Jung are rather more athletic than in the Pavermann recording. Some are unconvinced by Sitkovetsky, finding him lacking in a defining characteristic, but I find him here full of elegance and charm coupled with an alpha level of technique. Like all great players he finds the time to phrase elastically in the central movement, somewhat more than on disc.

Three great Soviet performers are caught in this twofer, in excellent sound, finely remastered and outstandingly well documented.

Jonathan Woolf

Information received

We are grateful to Mark Goldenberg for the following. "It was with great interest that I read your review. Boris "Busya" Goldstein was once a legendary figure in the former USSR, much like Yehudi Menuhin in the West. Please allow me to offer a small correction. Boris Goldstein did make studio recordings of two of the works presented on this album - his 1962 Wieniawski F minor concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin, is regarded by many as the best recording of this concerto ever made. It can be found on YouTube and is also available on CD (The Art of Boris Goldstein, Vol 3, IDIS 6722). He also recorded all three Brahms violin sonatas with his daughter Julia Goldstein in the 1980s in Germany (The Art of Boris Goldstein Vol 1, IDIS 6658/59)"  

Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.14 (1852) [25:21]
Boris Goldstein (violin)/Rundfunkorchester Hannover des NDR/Zdeněk Mácal,
rec. 6 June 1975, Hannover Landesfunkhaus, NDR Live Recording
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No 2 in G Minor, Op 63 (1935) [26:12]
Boris Goldstein (violin)/NDR-Sinfonieorchester/Yuri Ahronovitch
rec. 8 October 1976, Hannover Landesfunkhaus, NDR Live Recording
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No 3 in D Minor, Op 108[(1886-88) [20:42]
Boris Goldstein (violin), Kirsti Hjort (piano)
rec. 3 June 1977 Hannover Landesfunkhaus, NDR Studio Recording
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Song-Poem in Honour of Ashugs (1929) [5:25]
Gayane: Ayesha’s Dance (1942) arr. by Jascha Heifetz [2:59]
Gayane: Sabre Dance (1942) arr. by Jascha Heifetz [2:28]
Boris Goldstein (violin), Kirsti Hjort (piano)
rec. 3 June 1977, Hannover Landesfunkhaus, NDR Studio Recording
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Violin Sonata in E major, Op.1 No.15 HWV 373 (1732) [10:32]
Igor Bezrodny (violin)/Vsevolod Petrushansky (piano)
rec.8 June 1968, Kongresshalle, Rundfunk der DDR, Live Recording
Dmitry KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Violin Concerto in C major, Op.48 (1948) [15:45]
Igor Bezrodny (violin)/Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Kirill Kondrashin
rec. 24 July 1950, East Berlin, Friedrichstadtpalast, Rundfunk der DDR, Live Recording
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor, Op.7 (1826) [29:02]
Julian Sitkovetsky (violin)/Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Leipzig/Franz Jung
rec. 17 December 1955, Leipzig, Funkhaus, Radio GDR, studio recording