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Beethoven, Brahms: Violin Concertos / Heifetz, Et Al

Release Date: 11/27/2007 
Label:  Idi   Catalog #: 6528   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenJohannes Brahms
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
Conductor:  Dimitri MitropoulosArturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto. 1 BRAHMS Violin Concerto 2 Jascha Heifetz (vn); Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond; 1 Arturo Toscanini, cond; 2 New York P; 1 New York P-SO 2 IDI 6528, mono (75:05) Live: 2/9/1956; Read more class="SUPER12">1 2/24/1935 2

Heifetz’s performance of the Beethoven Concerto with Mitropoulos from February 2, 1956, must be the one that’s been attributed to February 12, 1956, and that’s been available in several reissues. Actually, Heifetz’s live performances of the Concerto with Rodzinski (1945—Music and Arts 766), Munch, Koussevitsky (1950), and Paray (1950) have also appeared now and then. This one, with Mitropoulos from 1956, only a year after his last recording of the work for RCA, seems relatively clean in Danilo Prefumo’s remastering, although the recorded sound is a bit edgy, with a strong spotlight on the soloist. At the tempos Heifetz preferred in this work, his playing could have seemed simply powerful and granitic, but his collaboration with Mitropoulos and the silken elegance of his phrasing generate a wealth of subtle detail (revealed, in addition to some audience noise, by the recorded sound) and irresistible drive, steely strength, and towering monumentality. Heifetz’s performance of the Brahms Concerto has appeared on DOREMI 7717, 26:1 and on the “New York Philharmonic Special Editions” 9703, 22:5; it’s apparent that Jacob Harnoy of DOREMI and Danilo Prefumo both faced the challenge of deteriorated recorded sound (apparent at the openings of the first and third movements). In fact, Sedgwick Clark’s notes relate that he had to patch part of the cadenza from the performance with Koussevitzky, which he seems to have misidentified as coming from 1937, and from a section later in the third movement to the movement’s opening in order to guarantee continuity. Prefumo mentions in his notes that Heifetz’s tempos here reflect the ones from the 1939 studio recording with Serge Koussevitzky (issued by Naxos on 8.110936, paired with the (in)famous recording of Beethoven’s Concerto with Toscanini from 1940). In fact, Heifetz’s timings in Brahms’s Concerto, as evidenced by his recordings and preserved live performances, did remain fairly steady, even growing a bit faster, with this live performance at 20:36, 8:52, and 7:38; the “New York Philharmonic Special Editions” issue of the same performance at 20:33, 9:05, and 7: 32; with Koussevitzky (Naxos) at 20:55, 9:04, 7:48; with Szell (Music and Arts 766) from 1951 at 18:43, 8:00, and 7:17; and with Reiner (1955, available on RCA Red Seal 5402 and elsewhere) at 18:47, 8:11, and 7:18. But nothing about the collaboration with Toscanini could be considered stodgy. In nominating it in the “New York Philharmonic Special Edition” version for the Classical Hall of Fame in 22:5, I suggested its importance but also its superiority to others (a view that New York Philharmonic series producer Clark also held); and while I’d still maintain that importance, I’ve grown increasingly to admire as an alternative the 1939 studio recording with Koussevitzky, which offers the additional benefit of unimpaired recorded sound.

In all, though, Heifetz’s admirers will need to obtain this release, not only for the brilliant version of the Beethoven Concerto it contains, but also for the serviceable one of the Brahms (available in DOREMI’s edition and also, less readily, in the New York Philharmonic set). Essential for them, desirable for everyone else.

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:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/09/1956 
Venue:  Live  New York City 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/24/1935 
Venue:  Live  New York City 

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