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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Violin Sonata in D major, Op. post.137 No.1, D384 (1816) [10:55]
Violin Sonata in A minor Op. post.137 No.2, D385 (1816) [15:05]
Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. post.137 No.3, D408 (1816) [13:38]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto in A minor, Op.102 (1887) [28:59]
Mischa Mischakoff (violin)
Ernő Balogh (piano)
Frank Miller (cello)
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
rec. November 1948, New York City (Brahms) and c.1950 (Schubert)

The eminent Russian-born Mischa Mischakoff (1895-1981) is best known as Toscanini’s NBC Orchestra concertmaster, though he had held equally distinguished positions earlier in Philadelphia and Chicago. He was a formidable player who tended to marshal his eponymous string quartet in an Old School manner. Though he was a concertmaster-soloist, opportunities for him to record the major concerto repertoire were necessarily limited. He did set down a number of isolated concerto movements with Erich Leinsdorf but these were indeed bleeding concerto chunks and don’t allow one to hear him in entire works. However, in the realm of chamber music, Lyrichord teamed him with Ernő Balogh for the cycle of Schubert Sonatas, in c.1950, which is what Forgotten Records has transferred.

Mischakoff’s vibrant tone production is a marked feature of his playing of the sonatas, as is his fine rhythmic control, something of a prerequisite for a concertmaster. Occasionally he and Balogh can sound just a little lacking in flexibility – they can be slightly metronomic in the slow movement of D384 for instance - but this is otherwise solidly accomplished playing. It’s more leonine than, say, the subtler stylishness of a Grumiaux or a Goldberg in this repertoire, but there’s real buoyancy in the opening of D408, and crispness in the same sonata’s Menuetto. Parsimonious with repeats though this recording may be, it’s an index of Mischakoff’s suavity as a performance and of Balogh’s accommodating control.

This LP is probably not very well known but the companion is one of Mischakoff’s most well-remembered recordings, his and Frank Miller’s second recorded concert performance of the Brahms Double with Toscanini. This has been reissued a number of times on CD and most fairly contrasted with the less well-known pre-war 1939 broadcast. Both men were NBC principals and both were very much guided by the conductor. The earlier recording conforms more to the spirit of malleability that marked so many of his recordings of the time, whereas the 1948 is altogether more tensile, full of nervous intensity and forward momentum. Its dynamism may well strike one as relatively inflexible judged by that earlier recording. In both cases the string players play very well, their orchestral association ensuring conformity of approach – as was indeed the case when Furtwängler performed the work with the Vienna Philharmonic principals Boskovsky and Brabec in 1952.

I think it’s unlikely that enthusiasts will have overlooked the Brahms, but admirers of the violinist may want to sample the Schubert cycle. Though it’s slightly boxy and dry, its bass frequency response is admirable and the sonatas show both Mischakoff and Balogh in confident form.

Jonathan Woolf



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