Notes and Editorial Reviews
Solo Violin Partita No. 2:
Nathan Milstein (vn);
Anatole Fistoulari, cond; Philharmonia O
class="ARIAL12"> PRAGA 350 105, analog
mono (SACD: 74:53)
Live: Salzburg 1956
For almost 30 years, I carried the information about Nathan Milstein’s LP of Carl Goldmark’s Violin Concerto (actually, his Concerto No. 1, but always referred to in early years as the violin concerto) in my wallet; and the work, like Elgar’s, Concerto, has been one I’ve chosen to play for significant events in my life. That’s due in large part to Milstein, who, as Hugh Bean, the concertmaster of the Philharmonia’s recording sessions, said, “was” the Goldmark Concerto. Nobody else—nobody—has played it with such panache, including Peter Rybar (on LP, Westminster WL5010, rereleased on Doron DRC 4003,
18:4), Itzhak Perlman (Angel S-37445, reissued as CDC-47846), Hu Nai-Yuan Hu (Delos DE 3156), Joshua Bell (Sony SK 65949,
24:3), Vera Tsu (Naxos 8.553579,
21:2), Ruggiero Ricci (Vox Allegretto ACD 8173), Sarah Chang (EMI 7243 5 56955 2 9,
23:5), Benjamin Schmid (Oehms 359,
29:1), or even the estimable Bronislaw Gimpel (on LP, Vox 10290, later, in CDX2-5523), who comes very close. Bean also suggested that for anyone who’d never heard a violin, he’d play the first movement’s second theme in Milstein’s recording as a sort of ostensive definition. Even such a high recommendation isn’t hyperbole. After the original LP, on which the concerto appeared without a discmate, EMI released the work on its Seraphim label, following it with a CD (paired with the Dvo?ák Concerto). Testament coupled it, remastered, in 1995, with Lalo’s
and some outtakes from the rehearsal (SBT 1047,
18:6); and now Praga has issued the work, again remastered, like the other concerto in the program, from Angel’s stereo tapes, on SACD. It should provide extra definition that may create an even deeper and richer impression than the LP did in the early 1960s. I envy those who can experience for the first time the way Milstein’s soaring figuration in the middle of the first movement surges to a fugato (a device to which Goldmark returned in the finale), the simple but heartfelt second-movement “Air,” or the finale’s cadenza, which Milstein transmogrifies into a breathtaking (Johann Sebastian) Bach-like
tour de force
. Incidentally, Milstein didn’t play that entire cadenza (neither does anyone else), either here or in a live performance with Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic on One-eleven URS 5550140 and AS Disc AS 407.
For those who, as did Henry Roth, prefer Milstein’s reading of Brahms’s Violin Concerto with Anatole Fistoulari from June 23 and 24, 1960 to those with William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from November 29, 1953 or the later one with from Eugen Jochum from December 11-14, 1974, should also appreciate the opportunity to hear afresh it in Praga’s relatively high-definition version on SACD. This reading appeared in the EMI’s 6-disc Milstein collection as well as in several releases, including one on Seraphim CDE 69035. These seemed be good years for Milstein, but then what years weren’t? More than a decade later, he would re-record Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas for Deutsche Grammophon, a highly individual set that many feel outstrips his earlier recordings from this period in the late 1950s for EMI. The booklet attempts to connect Hungarian elements in Goldmark’s work with the Hungarian finale of Brahms’s Concerto, but no such thematic connection will be necessary to justify this release for Milstein’s admirers.
The program concludes with a magisterial performance of part (almost seven minutes—to just beyond the first big set of arpeggios) of Bach’s
from Salzburg on August 6, 1956. This has been remastered, according to the jewel-case blurb, from a private mono tape. If the apogee of Milstein’s performances of solo Bach occurred in the fugue from the C-Major Sonata—and that’s arguable—Milstein often played the Chaconne as an independent piece in recital, placing his signature unmistakably on the event.
You could say of Praga’s release that it’s one to die for, but it should issued to would-be suicides as a reason to go on living: It’s that good.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Nathan Milstein (Violin)
Written: 1878; Austria
Length: 35 Minutes 38 Secs.
Ciaccona, BWV 1004: (beginning) [Excerpt] by Johann Sebastian Bach
Nathan Milstein (Violin)
Written: 1720; Germany
Date of Recording: 08/06/1956
Venue: Live Salzburg
Length: 6 Minutes 52 Secs.
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