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Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto / Eddy Brown, Weissmann, Berlin State Opera Orchestra

Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Symposium   Catalog #: 1373   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnPeter Ilyich TchaikovskyJohn Powell
Performer:  John [Film Composer] PowellEddy Brown
Conductor:  Frieder Weissmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto: Mvmt I; 1 Mvmt II; 2 Mvmt III. 1 TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto. 1 POWELL Sonata Virginianesque 1,3 Eddy Brown (vn); 1,3,4,5 Edith Lorand (vn); Read more class="SUPER12">2 John Powell (pn); 3 Frieder Weissmann, cond; 1 Berlin St Op O; 1 Camillo Hildebrandt, cond; 2 Blüthner O 2 SYMPOSIUM 1373, mono (72:25)

Chicagoan Eddy Brown had studied with Jen? Hubay before going to St. Petersburg for five further years with Leopold Auer. Volume 25 of Symposium’s series dedicated to “Great Violinists” brings performances by him of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (curiously, with the second movement played by Edith Lorand and a different orchestra, as the notes relate, in the original set of 78s), Tchaikovsky’s Concerto, and a sonata by John Powell with the composer at the piano.

Symposium obtained the Mendelssohn Concerto discs from collector Raymond Glaspole. The abundant surface noise seems to affect the orchestra even more than it does the violin, which sounds rather far forward in this recording from 1924. Symposium hasn’t made an attempt to smooth the transitions from the ends of sides to the subsequent beginnings, an annoyance to those used to perfect continuity and a correspondingly rich blessing to those accustomed to going to the gramophone to change records. The playing sounds as rich and vibrant as that of Auer’s students, like Toscha Seidel, Mischa Elman, or Jascha Heifetz, who have become more familiar to American listeners (though Tully Potter thought that Brown’s vibrato recalled Hubay more vividly than it did Auer). Like Elman, Brown relaxes enough in the first movement to allow tempos to breathe naturally—though he never sounds wayward; like Heifetz, he creates a sense of continuous forward motion. Edith Lorand’s slow movement sounds more old-fashioned in the prevalence of rather prominent—and some might think, intrusive—portamentos, but her reading, though hardly cut from the same cloth as Brown’s, serves as more than a mere transition. Brown’s reappearance battens down all the hatches; his off-the-string bowings sound exceptionally sprightly—and brilliant—in the last movement. Brown had won a competition at the age of 11, playing this very Concerto, and he obviously had something vital to communicate by means of it to audiences as well as to judges.

The recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto also comes from 1924, and the sides of the 78s offer just about as much surface noise and some ungainly transitions, in which measures go missing (as occurred during Mendelssohn’s final movement). Brown makes a personal statement, as did Elman, with the violin’s entry in the first movement. It probably shouldn’t be surprising that he plays Auer’s version (including runs in thirds in the cadenza, which he brings off impressively—although the recording equipment couldn’t pick up the chords, which sound like so much static), and he does so with virtuosic aplomb and a sense of continuous tension. But he also has a way with the cadenza’s lyricism (by contrast, the overtly songful slow movement sounds strained, at least in the opening section). Missing passages mar an exciting reading of the finale.

The engineers for John Powell’s Sonata Virginianesque , recorded with the composer at the piano between 1939 and 1940, captured Brown’s tone with greater fidelity, but many listeners may find that the electric charge of Brown’s early recordings has been dissipated during the intervening 15 years. The Sonata’s three movements—a dance-like opening, “In the Quarters,” the more reflective “In the Woods,” and a tuneful finale, “At the ‘Big House’”—serve as musical portraits of subjects that may no longer be entirely correct politically. Nevertheless, the Sonata’s richly Romantic harmonic language and immediate accessibility make it a sort of test of Brown’s ability to breathe life into compositions of this sort; in this sample, he doesn’t seem to be a miniaturist on Kreisler’s or Heifetz’s level—or perhaps even a single cut below.

In The Book of the Violin , Cheniston Roland and Dominic Gill suggest that Brown’s recordings of the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos existed only as test pressings; and Henry Roth mentioned, with what seems to have been pride of accomplishment, that he had managed to hear one of these of the Tchaikovsky Concerto. Creighton’s Discopedia of the Violin doesn’t even list that performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto—that’s how rarely these performances have been heard over the years. Now those who connect Auer with Heifetz, Milstein, and perhaps peripherally with Elman can hear Eddy Brown’s concerto recordings and discover in them a surprisingly strong-minded personality, superb technician (Auer considered Brown one of his best students), and interpreter of driving energy. Urgently recommended to collectors and aficionados of the violin.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 7 "Virginianesque" by John Powell
Performer:  John [Film Composer] Powell (Piano), Eddy Brown (Violin)
Conductor:  Frieder Weissmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 18 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Eddy Brown (Violin)
Conductor:  Frieder Weissmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Germany 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Eddy Brown (Violin)
Conductor:  Frieder Weissmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 

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