Notes and Editorial Reviews
For its lively and interesting performance of the Mendelssohn concerto, the issue might elicit a warm recommendation, but Gitlis seems born to play Sibelius’s work, and if I were headed to the fabled desert isle and couldn’t find Heifetz...I wouldn’t be sorry to take this one along.
class="ARIAL12"> Ivry Gitlis (vn);
Antonio de Almeida, cond; Monte-Carlo Op O
DORON 4013 (52:37)
Doron’s jewel case and booklet give the dates of these two recordings as June 13 and 14, 1978. I’ve been able to trace the reading of Felix Mendelssohn’s concerto, released as FNAC 642305. Ivry Gitlis supposedly also recorded Jean Sibelius’s concerto, again with David Josefowitz and the Monte-Carlo Orchestra, at the same time for Guilde (although the company didn’t release it). Could this be that very? In any case, Gitlis appears front and center in Mendelssohn’s concerto, affording a close up audition of his somewhat angular tone, his occasionally abrasive style, and his tendency to make a sudden diminuendo after the initial attack on a note (the playing of a Gypsy from whom I once bought a violin exhibited the same mannerism, if more pronounced). His brisk tempo in the first movement and his pervasive lyricism, however, establish his authority, as does his crisp virtuosity in the cadenza. And Josefowitz and the orchestra almost serve as Gitlis’s straight men. The violinist occasionally marks the slow movement with a pause that could strike some listeners as quirky, but he also includes a smoothly executed shift here and there that should please all but the most rigorous. In the finale, he hardly challenges Jascha Heifetz’s—to say nothing of Eugène Ysaÿe’s—lickety-split run-throughs, but his reading, at his own tempo, still sounds lively and high-spirited.
Gitlis’s steely virtuosity arguably matches Sibelius’s concerto better. In the rapid détachés near the beginning of the first movement, even Jascha Heifetz doesn’t generate so much electricity; both (especially, perhaps, Heifetz in his earlier recording with Thomas Beecham in 1935) cast an aura about the work that makes it, in one of my students' estimations, almost terrifying. And the boldness of the huge leap at the movement’s center makes a similar impression in both performances. But in the tranquil passage before everything breaks loose at the coda’s end, Gitlis plays more affectingly. As did Heifetz, Gitlis rises to a temperature in the slow movement that should melt the CD’s plastic, although his sharp attacks on some notes tend to impede the lyrical flow. After a pounding orchestral vamp that should send the fainthearted running, Gitlis enters with breathtaking bravura, which he manages to maintain through the entire movement.
In 1992, Vox released
The Art of Ivry Gitlis
, including concertos by Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Sibelius, Mendelssohn, and Bartók, as well as Bartók’s Solo Sonata, all (except, of course, the Solo Sonata) with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Hans Swarowsky conducting Mendelssohn, and Jascha Horenstein conducting Sibelius (Vox Legends CDX2 5505). In that set, the performance of Mendelssohn’s concerto came from 1954. Vox’s recorded sound seems thinner and wirier than Doron’s (and sets Gitlis just a bit farther forward). The reading itself, however, two decades earlier than the one on Doron, bears a strong similarity to its predecessor, although the younger Gitlis arguably generates marginally greater excitement. Gitlis’s performance of Sibelius’s concerto, by way of contrast, seems to have grown more idiosyncratic and mannered (with sudden dynamic changes, for example) over the same two decades (Vox’s version, from July 1955, offered richer recorded sound than the engineers provided for the reading of Mendelssohn’s concerto a year earlier), if Vox’s and Doron’s issues give a true indication of the violinist’s development. For those preferring more mainline Gitlis, Vox should offer an attractive alternative, though Gitlis’s admirers will need to acquire both .
For its lively and interesting performance of the Mendelssohn concerto, the issue might elicit a warm recommendation, but Gitlis seems born to play Sibelius’s work, and if I were headed to the fabled desert isle and couldn’t find Heifetz (either) in time, I wouldn’t be sorry to take this one along. Urgently recommended, but buyers should beware. Gitlis isn’t to everyone’s taste, though anyone who can see past his eccentricities should find him commanding and fresh.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Ivry Gitlis (Violin)
Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra
Written: 1844; Germany
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Ivry Gitlis (Violin)
Antonio de Almeida
Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra
Written: 1903-1905; Finland
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