> Heifetz Rediscovered [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Heifetz Rediscovered
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Violin Sonata No 3
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Sonata No 1
Henri WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Etude Op 10 No 5 Caprice alla saltarella arr Kreisler
Piotr I TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Lensky’s Aria from Eugene Onegin arr Auer
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

Tambourin arr Achron
J S BACH (1685-1750)

Sicilienne from Flute Sonata BWV 1031 arr Auer
Jose PADILLA (1889-1960)


Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)


Jascha Heifetz, violin and piano (on Padilla’s Valencia) with
Emanuel Bay, piano (Grieg and Brahms)
Isidor Achron, piano (Wieniawski, Rameau, Bach, Padilla, Sarasate)
Samuel Chotzinoff, piano (Tchaikovsky)
Recorded 1922-36
RCA VICTOR 09026 63907-2 [65’38]


AmazonUK   AmazonUS

It’s been a good time for Heifetz admirers recently. Even leaving to one side the 65 CD set of the Heifetz Edition issued in the early nineteen nineties we have had the 1934 previously rejected and unreleased Sibelius Concerto with Stokowski and the Philadelphia. APR has recently issued a previously unissued 1949 Kreutzer Sonata with Moiseiwitsch, which predates their commercial recording by two years and only existed in the form of test pressings retained by the pianist. And now, maybe topping even these two, comes a collection of recordings spanning the acoustic and electric eras, much of which is new to the Heifetz discography – two major Romantic Sonatas, five acoustic titles and an example of Heifetz the pianist.

He had recorded the second movement of the Grieg Sonata in 1928 but this newly issued 1936 performance was the only occasion on which he attempted it in its entirety. The Brahms First, Op 78 is entirely new – and both these sonatas come from a period of extensive record making following his London concerto recordings. Both the Second Sonatas of Brahms and Grieg were recorded and issued amid much else – Mozart, Beethoven, Fauré – and the Grieg Third was originally intended to supplant the Kreisler-Rachmaninov recording of 1928. These unissued discs offer a rich array of Heifetzian glory and are of significant interest both musically and historically. The disc begins with the Grieg, recorded ten days before the Brahms, in February 1936 at the RCA Studios in New York. We can immediately hear two things – the intensely coiled Heifetz vibrato and the distant balancing of Emanuel Bay. Bay is a supportive but rather bland partner – his playing at 1’20 at the start of the movement, where his phrasing is frankly dull, is symptomatic of much else. Heifetz meanwhile presses forward with galvanic impetus replete with cliff face diminuendos and considerable fire. There is some rough playing from him at 4’40 but from here onward his fervid vibrato contrasts markedly with Bay’s penny plain phraseology – indeed Heifetz’s playing here is not as ideally romanticised as some might like. In the second movement we hear a distinctive Heifetz slide in the statement of the theme and much more of the fervent intensity of which he was a master – but the pizzicatos are very, very loud indeed. In the finale he launches an invincible attack at 1’25, bold, uncompromising, that contrasts almost immediately with his elfin narrowing of tone. His control of contrast is excellent and though, inevitably, he’s not technically perfect these are passing details – though the mistake at 2’41 is a notable one and a few whistles obtrude. There remains, to my ears, however an air of calculation about the movement that I find oppressive. At 5’50 he sounds just rather too prepared and mannered and his abrupt diminuendo at 6’17 just too calculated for comfort. What strikes one about the recording as a whole are his unique tonal qualities, the tremendous weight of attack, and the razor sharp reflexes. The Brahms Sonata begins with determination – fluent, with no lingering. Bay is again under-inflected and backward in the balance. His playing from 3’10 sounds petty and subservient and is anyway covered by Heifetz’s inflated pizzicatos. Heifetz is on fruity form by 7’09 with some rich slides, turning and coiling the line with a battery of inflective devices, left and right hand. Bay is again heavy-handed in his introduction to the second movement but Heifetz is full of tonal depth and variety, sometimes indeed just a little over full. However this is, on its own terms, deeply impressive music making and if the finale, which has one or two rather smeary slides, isn’t perfect it is nevertheless a significant performance. Of the remainder we are fortunate indeed to have the luxury at this late date of listening to unpublished Heifetz acoustics. The Wieniawski in the Kreisler arrangement is dashed off with barely a quiver of concern; the Auer arrangement of Lensky’s Aria is full of the most complex tonal colouration with shading and bowing of exceptional sophistication; his lower strings here do not rival Elman’s – they are instead iron ore to Elman’s lava flow and make a fascinating contrast. As with other discs here I’m not sure why this was never approved for release. A moment of poor intonation temporarily interrupts Rameau’s Tambourin but otherwise all is silvery and robust. The Bach is affectionately done and the Sarasate, not new to the discography though this recording is, simply stunning. As a pendant we have an example of Heifetz the pianist. Like his older colleague Fritz Kreisler, Heifetz was a decent pianist and so with fellow Russian Isidor Achron they play the popular song Valencia with enviable rapport.

Documentation is excellent – with a booklet containing just the right amount of information, presented in a book format, and housed in a handy pocket. Recording quality is equally superb. This is a disc of drama, excitement and real historical and musical value.

Jonathan Woolf


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.