Notes and Editorial Reviews
Zino Francescatti recorded Mendelssohn’s and Tchaikovsky’s concertos twice, possibly to take advantage the second time of stereophonic sound: the first recording of each with Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic in 1954 (both reissued in Sony’s Masterworks Heritage series, 62339—which regrettably seems no longer to be available). He made his second recording of Mendelssohn’s Concerto in 1961 in Severance Hall and his second of Tchaikovsky in 1965 at the Manhattan Center; they appeared together on LP as Columbia ML 6158 and its stereo twin, MS 6758.
Natty Francescatti seemed ideally suited to Mendelssohn’s Concerto. His tone possessed the bright and edgy individuality to highlight the flashing pyrotechnics in a personal
way; and without pressing the tempos unduly, he could strike sparks in the cadenza’s off-the-string passagework and in the elfin finale. The uniqueness of his approach seems clearest, however, in the slow movement, to which he brings a fresh, chaste ardor to the familiar soaring lines, and in the lyrical episode in the finale, which he plays as though he had written it. And Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra (billed as “members of the Cleveland Orchestra in the original LP release), provided genial support.
Henry Roth didn’t consider Francescatti’s way with Tchaikovsky sufficiently urgent; in fact, the very qualities that enhanced Francescatti’s reading of Mendelssohn’s Concerto might seem diametrically opposed to those Tchaikovsky’s Concerto required. Francescatti certainly didn’t play with the propulsive intensity of Auer’s students, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein, nor with the glowing warmth of David Oistrakh, any of whom might almost have claimed the Concerto as his own. Yet it’s hard to think of just what it might be that Francescatti’s performance lacks. While remaining his dapper self, he soars in the Concerto’s frequent lyrical passages, plays with commanding brilliance in the first movement’s cadenza (into which he inserts Auer’s famous—or infamous—but nevertheless electrifying thirds), and generates overwhelming virtuoso excitement in the movement’s coda. The slow movement, taken deliberately, smolders with exotic Slavic hues, a showcase for Francescatti’s distinctive tone production, even though muted. And he realizes the excitement of the finale, both in its pounding first theme and in the moody episodes, anticipated piquantly in the introduction. The original engineers reproduced clearly the clearer orchestral textures and gave body to Schippers’s and the orchestra’s explosive tuttis.
Those who admire Francescatti should find here a compendium of his art spanning colossally the range of expressive possibilities and mastered with Sony’s DSD and SBM techniques. Urgently recommended, of course, to Francescatti enthusiasts, but with equal enthusiasm to general listeners as well.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Zino Francescatti (Violin)
Written: 1844; Germany
Date of Recording: 1961
Length: 24 Minutes 14 Secs.
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Zino Francescatti (Violin)
New York Philharmonic
Written: 1878; Russia
Date of Recording: 1965
Length: 32 Minutes 53 Secs.
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