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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 (1901-02) [41:52]
Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 (1903) [27:58]
Ivry Gitlis (violin)
Orchestre Radio National de France (Symphony),
Vienna Symphony Orchestra (Concerto)/Jascha Horenstein
rec. November 1956 live, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris (Symphony), September 1955, Vienna

Neither of the performances here are new to disc. The Symphony appeared in a 9-CD box from Music and Arts (CD 1146), which contained a wealth of historical material, whilst the Vox recording of the Sibelius has been available since the mid-50s. I last encountered it in a Brilliant box of some of Ivry Gitlis’s concerto recordings. At the time of writing he is going strong at 95.

His taut and rapidly oscillatory playing, especially in higher positions, imparts a memorably tensile quality to this recording. It brings with it an edgy, uneasy strain – the opposite, for instance, of Anja Ignatius’s superbly glacial way with it in her wartime 78 set in Berlin, subsequently transferred to LP and CD. In the slow movement he vibrates intensely and is vividly extrovert in the finale, where he sounds well in front of the orchestra. Gitlis is vehement but not strident and his playing has a bold sense of projection – which doesn’t match the febrile, Gypsy heroics of Spivakovsky - but that certainly stands at a remove from more central contemporary recommendations, such as Stern, Heifetz, Oistrakh, Wicks, Neveu, Telmányi et al. Horenstein provides strong support, drawing from the Vienna Symphony some excellent playing.

As opposed to previous transfers, Pristine has applied some XR remastering, the result of which is to impart a degree more studio warmth to the aural perspective.

The following year Horenstein was recorded live in Paris directing the Orchestre Radio National de France in the Second Symphony. There is a little more spatial depth in this XR transfer than in M&A’s which means the winds and brass in particular emerge with just a bit more bite; the orchestral pizzicati are more present too. This somewhat adds to the immediacy of the performance which I felt lacked drive on first hearing back in the M&A box. I still feel that to a significant degree, but the detailing is more revealing now and moments when Horenstein whips up the strings are more tactile and exciting.

If you have the two transfers noted the differences are not sufficient to warrant buying this disc. But it makes a good pairing, capturing Horenstein in Sibelius - he is still better remembered for his Nielsen – and with a Concerto recording that has certainly merited its reissuing over the decades.

Jonathan Woolf

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