Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47)
Violin concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) [25:44] Ļ
AntonŪn DVORŃK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor B108 Op. 53 [30:09] ≤
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in D minor BWV1043 for two violins (1725) [15:21] ≥
Lťgende in G minor Op.17 [7:19] Ļ
Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
George Enescu (violin) ≥
Colonne Concerts Orchestra/George EnescuĻ
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/George Enescu ≤
Paris Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux ≥
rec. 1932-38, Paris
DUTTON CDVS 1916 [78:46]

These are much reissued recordings that focus on the relationship forged between Menuhin and his erstwhile teacher and mentor Enescu. The first of Menuhinís commercial recordings of the Mendelssohn was set down in 1938 with Enescu directing the Colonne Concerts Orchestra. This is a reading notable for its spontaneity and effulgence, a certain youthful radiance permeating its grooves. Allied to this one finds Menuhinís highly expressive tonal resources, which are at their most communicative and unselfconscious in the slow movement. Whilst the mature Menuhinís subsequent post-war recordings arguably bring a greater sense of the musicís structure, this early one captures a great deal of his energy and vitality. I would also note that the passage around 3:48 sounds like a rallentando preparatory to a side-change Ė I donít have the 78 set so canít be quite sure itís a side change Ė but which he might not have made in other circumstances.

Menuhin had first practised the DvorŠk in 1929 according to Humphrey Burtonís biography of the violinist so he was not surprised by it when he made the February 1936 recording with the guiding hand of George Enescu. Itís quite true that this is a significantly less impressive recording than the Schumann. The opening orchestral tutti for example is damagingly weak in relation to Menuhinís entry, despite the violinistís delicious tonal colouration here from around 3:50. The orchestral winds remain distant throughout the performance and behind the solo violinís passagework in particular where they are inaudible. The Parisian orchestraís bass section also sounds dull, an impression doubtless magnified by the recording and at 7:35 there is a stolidity to the rhythm that impedes and retards momentum, even though Menuhinís subsequent outburst is passionately convincing. The slow movementís impact is again vitiated by recording problems Ė there are some attractive but very distant orchestral solos as well as much fluent playing, though not really idiomatic enough. The opening tutti of the final movement is nowhere near as vigorous as it should be or as lilting Ė there is a definable rhythmic cell missing from a performance of this kind and it makes its absence most apparent here. The stubbornly intractable bass line also doesnít help and Enescu canít stop the result sounding stiff. Even Menuhin fails to flourish here.

The Bach concerto with Enescu is conducted by ex-violist Pierre Monteux. This is a seraphic encounter, and the recording manages to distinguish the two fiddle players very well Ė thereís certainly little muddiness in their exchanges and dovetailing passages. Itís a more obviously heartfelt encounter than those between Menuhin and Oistrakh or Ferras, though once again the balance between structural control and expressive projection is probably more just in the case of the later recordings. Nevertheless it captures a marvellous collaboration with great conviction. The Wieniawski Lťgende marks another successful Menuhin-Enescu endeavour.

This is one of Duttonís bargain basement price line releases, for which notes have been sacrificed. The triptych of Mendelssohn, DvorŠk and Wieniawski is a staple of EMIís Great Recordings of the Century [GROC CDH7 63822-2] and Naxos has also had a go at transferring these recordings Ė the DvorŠk for example is on 8.110966. In both cases I prefer the EMI and Naxos transfers to the Dutton, because I favour their less filtered and more penetrating tonal qualities. Duttonís work is more processed and tries a little too hard to sound like a mono LP. But considering the ridiculously cheap price, you may very well be tempted.

Jonathan Woolf

A reading notable for its spontaneity and effulgence, a certain youthful radiance permeating its grooves.