Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.53 B108 (1880, rev. 1882) [31:02]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto in D minor (1940) [35:41]
Thomas Magyar (violin)
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Wilhelm Loibner (Dvořák) Rudolf Moralt (Khachaturian)
rec. September 1954 (Dvořák) and September 1953 (Khachaturian) Musikverein, Vienna
Thomas Magyar (1913-2008) was - yes, you’ve guessed it - a Hungarian-born violinist. A student of Hubay in Budapest he later studied with Carl Flesch before winning substantial first prizes in competitions and embarking on a career. After the Second World War he became a professor at the Rotterdam Conservatoire whilst continuing to make international tours. He helped to popularise Walton’s Concerto in a similar way to Berl Senofsky, though Magyar never had a profile as high as that of the American fiddler.
If you know his name it’s probably because of the Bach Double Concerto recording he made with Szymon Goldberg for Philips, for whom Magyar recorded exclusively. His major concerto performances on record, in addition to the two in this disc, were the Glazunov and Sibelius, both with van Otterloo. For the rest of his discography it’s very much bits-and-pieces. No Walton, unfortunately.
His Dvořák recording was made in Vienna in September 1954. The hard-working Vienna Symphony was directed by Wilhelm Loibner, who had conducted for the veteran American violinist Albert Spalding in his last concerto recordings for Remington. There were a number of sets of the concerto around, either on 78 or on LP, and more were soon to come: Kawaciuk (will anyone reissue his pioneering set?), Příhoda, Haendel, Menuhin, Kulenkampff, Oistrakh and Milstein is quite a strong list of soloists in anyone’s book.
Magyar was saddled with rather a recessive sound stage in the Musikverein and there’s a bit of a boomy quality. He doesn’t make an exactly exultant start but he shows a good feel for the work’s rhythmic bases and for its occasional detours toward the fokloric. He is a very musicianly player and he knows to broaden his tone in the slow movement; his till is tight though not quite electric. He doesn’t have a problem vibrato such as assailed a number of Hubay pupils, even the very best. It’s convincing playing, adequately accompanied, drably recorded.
For the Khachaturian you need the panache of a Kogan, or the unflappable genius of an Oistrakh; David more than Igor, though the latter is excellent too. Still, there are more ways to skin the Khachaturian feline than these two. Even Mischa Elman’s very different approach worked on its own terms, and Erlih’s recording had its merits too, though it was quite expansive. Magyar is certainly up to tempo, and he plays with more fire than Erlih, and greater expressive intensity. His portamenti are broad and effective. The Vienna winds under Rudolf Moralt sound rather watery - not the conductor’s fault - in their responses to the violin. Magyar’s approach is more lyrical and expressive than explicitly virtuoso; there’s certainly little of Kogan’s razor in this performance - try Kogan’s superb performance with Pierre Monteux in Boston in 1958 for radical electricity. There is, though, a compensatory intimacy and even delicacy. I’ll always need Kogan but it’s intriguing to hear this little-known Philips recording and to hear a more pliant and introspective slant.
Can we please have the Sibelius and Glazunov coupling next?
Jonathan Woolf