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Nathan Milstein - Live Recordings - Lalo, Brahms

Release Date: 09/09/2008 
Label:  Claves   Catalog #: 2708   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Edouard LaloJohannes Brahms
Performer:  Nathan Milstein
Conductor:  Paul Kletzki
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LALO Symphonie espagnole. 1 BRAHMS Violin Concerto 2 Nathan Milstein (vn); André Cluytens, cond; 1 O Natl de Paris; 1 Paul Kletzki, cond; 2 North German RSO 2 CLAVES 2708, mono (62: 22) Live: Montreux 9/11/1955.1; Read more 9/6/1960.2

Antonin Scherrer’s notes explain that Milstein used to play Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole in its four-movement form because he believed that Lalo had written the Intermezzo only for the premiere performance. He recorded the work in that form in 1944 and 1955 for Columbia with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and later, in 1954, with Vladimir Golschmann and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra for Capitol (reissued by Testament on 1047, 18:6), but Music & Arts has released a live performance, also with Cluytens and also from 1955 (July) as part of “The Art of Nathan Milstein: Public Performances” on Music & Arts 1168, 29:3. In the Montreux performance, Milstein sounds most characteristic in the first movement’s second theme, in the opening of the Scherzando and in its technical sparkle, and in the slow movement, which allows him to create the noble arches that marked his interpretation of the great lyrical masterpieces. Still, his command in the opening movement and scintillating passagework in the finale also seem wholly characteristic if not quite as individual—and Milstein peers briefly out from behind the finale’s second theme in a more personal way. The recorded sound produces a somewhat grainy tonal representation of the soloist, and occasionally a somewhat tubby one of the orchestra—although the Andante’s opening exhibits both weight and bite. The two performances (Claves and Music & Arts) offer similar pleasures, with Music & Arts’s recorded sound seeming a bit tubbier, as, presumably, had been the original source, and with now one and then the other revealing a bit more of Milstein’s personality (more of him, for example, seems to show through in the first movement’s opening on Music & Arts, but a bit more, in the second, in Claves’s).

Milstein recorded Brahms’s Concerto three times: with Steinberg in 1953, with Fistoulari in 1960, and with Jochum in 1974, but a number of live performances have circulated, including one with Sabata from 1950, another from the same year on Music & Arts 972, as well as another, from 1963, with Kertesz and the ORTF, on Music & Arts 1168. Milstein surely possessed the nobility of temperament for Brahms’s Concerto, and the technical security to make light of its formidable difficulties—often presenting themselves in the form of awkwardness in the writing for the violin (if only Brahms had listened more attentively to Joachim!). Milstein sounds very much in his element in Claves’s edition, with compelling drive forward in the first movement, propelled urgently by Kletzki and the Orchestra and by the violinist himself in the spectacular cadenza; Milstein reminds us in the slow movement how satisfyingly he could settle on a high note (not to mention the movement’s final one); while the finale is rough and tumble. Montreux’s engineers in 1960 represented Milstein’s timbre more faithfully.

The timings of these performances show the uncanny consistency of Milstein’s approach at the time, though he always played with great spontaneity: Lalo, with the same conductor—Claves 7: 40, 4:01, 6:29, and 6:56; Music & Arts 7:40, 4:00, 6:32, and 6:45 (in addition to 0:16 of applause); and Brahms—Claves 20:24, 8:45, and 7: 56; Music & Arts 20:27, 9:04, and 7:54 (in addition to 0:16 of applause). Can such things be?

For those who revere Milstein, these recordings should be de rigeur . Others may turn to his studio recordings or to Music & Arts’s sets. But how could anything Milstein did not receive a hearty recommendation?

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 by Edouard Lalo
Performer:  Nathan Milstein (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Kletzki
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; France 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Nathan Milstein (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Kletzki
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 

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