Notes and Editorial Reviews
At the present time, when so many violinists seem obsessed with the production of fat, voluptuous tone, it is perhaps particularly salutary to be reminded of the clean-limbed, elegantly aristocratic playing of Szigeti. He was a highly cultivated musician of considerable intellect, revered by the entire violin fraternity for his insight, sensitive phrasing and finely crafted interpretations; and the present reissue of his mid-1930s performances of three very diverse works bears witness to his artistic integrity. It is sad that in the last 20 years or so of his life his intonation failed him, but these recordings show him at the height of his powers, with not a single flaw except for the rising octaves near the end of the first movement of the Mendelssohn. In the Mozart the recording of the orchestra is forward and rather shallow, but it is Szigeti's tonal purity that at once beguiles. Beecham's hand makes itself felt in the loving shaping of the opening of the Andante: this whole movement is ravishingly beautiful. To be noted, also, is the very restrained speed of the 2/4 sections of the finale: throughout the disc, indeed, one is struck by Szigeti's avoidance of routine readings.
His interpretation of the Mendelssohn, for long considered a classic of the recorded repertoire, exemplifies this: the first movement, while capturing its dramatic tension, is flexible, with leisurely treatment of the second subject; and his Andante, thoughtfully played, is a world away from the sentimentality with which it is often over-burdened; the finale is deliciously light. Szigeti was always a champion of new music. He gave first performances of works by Bloch, Bartok and Ysaye, among others (and Harty's Concerto had been written for him when he was only 17), and was the first to record Prokofiev's D major, then still viewed with some suspicion (Glazunov had actually walked out in the middle of its first presentation in Leningrad). Expertly suiting his style to the music, Szigeti stresses the lyrical parts of the first movement and the emotional opening of the finale, but brings biting savagery to the more pungent sections; and his Scherzo is quite brilliantly incisive. The whole disc is one to treasure.
-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone [2/1994]