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Jasca Heifetz In Performance 1945-1951

Release Date: 07/30/2002 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1101   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenJohannes BrahmsJean SibeliusSergei Prokofiev,   ... 
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
Conductor:  Artur RodzinskiGeorge SzellDimitri MitropoulosSerge Koussevitzky,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonic Symphony OrchestraCentennial Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: n/a 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

JASCHA HEIFETZ IN PERFORMANCE Jascha Heifetz (vn); Arthur Rodzinski 1 , cond; George Szell 2 , cond; Dimitri Mitropoulos 3 , cond; Serge Koussevitzky 4 , cond; Centennial SO; Efrem Kurtz 5 , cond; P-SO MUSIC & ARTS 1101 (analog/mono) (2 CDs: 144:44) Live: New York Read more 1/14/1945; 1 12/9/1951; 2 3/11/1951; 3 4/1/1949; 4 3/30/1947 5

1 BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto. 2 BRAHMS Violin Concerto. 3 SIBELIUS Violin Concerto. 4 PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in g. 5 KORNGOLD Violin Concerto

In 1993, Music & Arts released “Jascha Heifetz in Performance,” (Music & Arts 766), consisting of remastered performances of concertos accompanied by the New York Philharmonic (under various titles): Felix Mendelssohn (Guido Cantelli, 1954), Jean Sibelius (Dimitri Mitropoulos, 1951), Johannes Brahms (George Szell, 1951), Ludwig van Beethoven (Arthur Rodzinski, 1945), and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Efrem Kurtz, 1947). The booklet notes, excerpted from Henry Roth’s book-length survey of great violinists, complemented the release, “digitally refurbished” in 1993. Now, 20 years later, Music & Arts has rereleased the set, with the exception of the Mendelssohn Concerto (in Fanfare 17:2, David K. Nelson suggested that of the conductors, only Cantelli failed to hold his own with Heifetz); it’s replaced here by Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Concerto. The issue includes the same notes by Roth; but the booklet now states that the performances have been “digitally refurbished” in 2001.

David suggested that since Heifetz had recorded most of these works twice in the studio (not Korngold), potential buyers might wonder what’s in it for them, and he replied that, for one, it offered an opportunity to hear Heifetz with different conductors. He also spent time discussing what may be the set’s single greatest attraction: the live performances, which show that Heifetz did warm to (or in these cases, heat up for) his audiences. In addition to the laser-sharp focus in Beethoven’s Concerto and the violinist’s micro-level aggressive bite, there’s great suppleness and graciousness on the macro level. Two studio recordings, with Arturo Toscanini on March 11, 1940, and with Charles Munch from November 27 and 28, 1955, offer alternative views. A third, from November 25, 1955, hasn’t even appeared in the “Complete Album Collection” that included much that had formerly been suppressed. Those who believe the version with Toscanini to be too tightly wound and the later version with Munch, a bit desiccated, may warm to this release. Heifetz takes command in the first movement (he plays a wrong chord in the cadenza: understand this: HEIFETZ PLAYS A WRONG CHORD—just what George Bernard Shaw had ordered up for him; I once held that letter from Shaw to Heifetz in my own hands), glows in transcendent cantilena in the Larghetto , and plays with special brilliance in the Rondo. The recorded sound seems vivid for 1945, and again, in this case, a bit more highly filtered than the relatively noisy 1993 version.

The recorded sound in Brahms’s Concerto may at first pose an obstacle, but by Heifetz’s entry, only some audience noise remains to distract a listener from the performance. In this case, the alternatives may seem more attractive: the early recording with Serge Koussevitzky from April 11, 1939, a perennial favorite, and the taut reading with Fritz Reiner from February 21 and 22, 1955 (an earlier studio recording with Koussevitzky from December 21, 1937, did finally appear in RCA/BMG’s “Complete Album Collection”). But this one with Szell catches fire in the middle of the first movement, much as did Leonid Kogan’s reading with Kirill Kondrashin. If anyone should doubt whether Brahms got the balances just right in this work, Heifetz, if anyone does, proves Brahms right. The performance’s vibrancy extends into the Adagio , which Heifetz attacks with a surprising intensity (stories about audiences reduced to tears at Heifetz’s concerts hardly seem incredible in view of performances like this one). The recorded sound again, if my ears haven’t tricked me, sounds comparable to that of the earlier set, if a bit tamer, and including less audience noise at the beginning of tracks.

The second disc begins with Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. The landmark early recording with Thomas Beecham (November 26 and December 14, 1935) remains the favorite of many listeners (an even earlier one with Leopold Stokowski wasn’t released), as does the later, benchmark (but icier), one with Walter Hendl from January 10 and 12, 1959. While some may find the first movement of this live performance more perfunctory (as before the return to the opening material) than those from 1935 or even 1959, it’s still supercharged. In the Adagio di molto , Heifetz produces the usual molten lava in its central passages; the finale, on the other hand, seems to lack the razor sharpness of the later studio recording and the menace of the earlier one. Still, the passagework glistens. If anything, the recorded sound seems a bit tamed, compared to the earlier, 1993, set.

In Prokofiev’s Second Concerto, Heifetz competes with an earlier studio recording he made on December 20, 1937, and the later one with the same orchestra (Boston) on February 24, 1959. In the first movement, he swirls like a dervish in 1949 as he did in 1937 (he also does so in the second movement, creating more excitement in the middle section than he would in 1959); the engineers for the live recording allowed the orchestra to swallow some of his figuration, grounding some of his electricity. Nevertheless, the microphone placement reveals from time to time some seldom heard orchestral detail, although perhaps at the soloist’s expense. Heifetz takes the opening of the slow movement at a tempo virtually identical to that he would take 10 years later in the studio (how’s that for consistency); but the searing melody nevertheless sounds penetrating and not at all pro forma . The last movement has its characteristic Heifetzian bite (and a slam-bang conclusion), but the recorded sound again tends to lose the soloist. Overall, many will find this the weakest of the remasterings—more than likely through no fault of Music & Arts.

On a personal note, I spent a great deal of time listening to Heifetz’s two performances (this one from 1947 and the later studio one from January 10, 1953) of Korngold’s korny (remember the old joke about corn and gold) Violin Concerto, in preparation for teaching it. The timings don’t reveal much of the story (here 7:53, 7: 25, and 6:14, and there 7:47, 7:09, and 6:31), because this live performance generates higher voltage than does its studio counterpart and demonstrates even more convincingly why the work suited Heifetz so well (even if Korngold actually wrote it for Bronislaw Huberman). Heifetz sounds fey in the slow movement’s leaping filigrees and crisp and sprightly in the Finale. Here’s a most worthy alternative to what most listeners have come to know. The recorded sound seems less strident, and less encumbered with noise, than that of 1993.

David surely had it right in describing Heifetz as remarkably consistent (unlike Nathan Milstein, who constantly improvised fingerings and bowings in performance), but these recordings don’t sound just like any of the other ones: There’s enough individuality to make them desirable in their own right. Finally, despite David’s flattering remarks about the general quality of the recorded sound, those who sit in front of their $50,000 systems expecting to hear every sizzle and ping they—and the orchestra—can deliver may not truly enjoy the set. Violinists, on the other hand, should eat it up live. That’s what these performances were, and still seem, despite the passage of time, to be—live. Urgently recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Artur Rodzinski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/14/1945 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/09/1951 
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Finland 
Date of Recording: 03/11/1951 
Concerto for Violin no 2 in G minor, Op. 63 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Centennial Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 04/01/1949 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Efrem Kurtz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/30/1947 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 PROBABLY AN OLDER RECORDING... November 11, 2014 By Zita Carno (Tampa, FL) See All My Reviews "Finally, after a couple of days of not much, I got to hear some Sibelius. In this case, the Violin Concerto, and with Heifetz! However, I found it rather disappointing. Of course, Heifetz plays brilliantly, as he always did, but not so much in this case. For one thing, he rushed the tempo in the first movement, as if he were hurrying to catch a train, and throughout the concerto he tended to get swallowed up by the orchestra when he played in his low register so I couldn't hear him. My guess is this was an older recording---even so, one wants to hear more of him. I'm waiting for the disc which pairs the Sibelius with the Nielsen concerto, with Cho-Liang Lin as the soloist and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting---if I didn't order that before, I'm going to do so now." Report Abuse
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