Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concertos: No. 4 in D;
No. 5 in A,
Jascha Heifetz (vn); William Primrose (va);
Malcolm Sargent, cond;
Thomas Beecham, cond;
Izler Solomon, cond;
class="ARIAL12"> London SO;
RCA Victor SO
IDI 6515, mono (74:43)
Heifetz recorded Mozart’s “Turkish” Concerto three times in the studio: with Barbirolli (1934), with Sargent (represented here, in 1951), and conducting a chamber orchestra in 1963. Naxos (8.110941) and EMI (53214, 30:2) have released programs of Heifetz playing Mozart and Mendelssohn concertos. In the Mozart concertos, they’ve selected the recording with Beecham from 1947 of the Fourth Concerto (there’s another, with Sargent, from 1962) and the Fifth with Barbirolli. So the Istituto Discografico Italiano provides another account, vibrant and in flattering recorded sound that places Heifetz center stage and represents his tone as anything but thin and “exiguous,” as one critic several generations ago once described it. Listeners who expect Heifetz to bring all Mozart’s phrases to feminine endings, as Virgil Thomson charged (even Danilo Prefumo, who remastered the recordings and wrote the liner notes, hesitated to praise Heifetz as Mozartean), would be disappointed to find little corroboration for that view in his high voltage in the first movement of the Fifth Concerto, his subtlety in the slow one, and gritty vigor in the finale. Heifetz, as mentioned, liked the Fifth Concerto and recorded it three times, the first supposedly being his first full-length concerto recording, from February 23, 1934 (he would record the Glazunov Concerto with the same conductor and orchestra on March 28 of the same year). Henry Roth once asked whether Heifetz served the music or the music served Heifetz, and concluded that the servitude worked both ways. But, again, though Heifetz’s individuality glows through every note, just as Milstein’s or Francescatti’s or Szigeti’s or Stern’s did in playing Mozart, the result should offend only those who expect Heifetz to serve the composer so slavishly as to appear anonymous. (Would an admirer of pop music expect Frank Sinatra to sink the individual so completely as to sing
so that nobody would recognize his personality? And then the ultimately heretical question might be asked—whether Mozart found it necessary to conceal his individuality when he played these works, expecting that his audiences came to hear the music itself rather than him playing it.) Rather than cream puffs served on silver salvers, Heifetz’s Mozart concertos emerge, especially the Fifth, as more robust, even if the Fourth displays more of the mannerisms (note the highly characteristic swooping cadenzas in the slow movement) that called down the wrath of his detractors. That Fourth Concerto, with its finale (the bowings of which Ricci identified as the hardest problem he had to face in concerto-playing) at a gusty tempo that makes listeners hold their hats, can also be found, as mentioned, in releases by Naxos (transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn) and EMI (transferred by Andrew Walter), with the recorded sound perhaps least tubby and most cleanly etched in IDI’s remastering.
Heifetz recorded Brahms’s “Double” Concerto twice, but Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante only once, with William Primrose, in 1956, and that’s been released by RCA in its “Original Jacket Collection.” IDI’s remastering sounds a bit more full-bodied and less abrasive. First-time listeners will note the contrast of Primrose’s straightforward
and Heifetz’s more mannered portamentos in the last movement.
Those willing to fly (perhaps not spit) against the wind should find IDI’s collection well worth acquiring, especially for the quality of the restorations and for Heifetz’s playing of the Fifth Concerto. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 4 in D major, K 218 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Sir Malcolm Sargent
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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