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Erick Friedman (violin)
Live Performances in France 1965-68
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 61 [40:01]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op 64 [26:35]
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)
Chaconne in G Minor [10:06]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No 3 in D Minor, Op 108 [20:26]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G Minor, L 148 [12:07]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Romance in F Major, Op 50 [8:30]
Sea Murmurs [1:56]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Moto perpetuo, Op 11 [4:23]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
Carmen Fantasie [10:38]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fuga, from Violin Sonata No 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001 [5:40]
Joseph Seiger (piano)
Orchestre National de l’ORTF/Wolfgang Sawallisch (Beethoven)
Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF/Serge Baudo (Mendelssohn)
rec 12 September 1965, Besançon, Théatre Municipal, ORTF Live Recording (Beethoven); 25 February 1966 Paris, Maison de la Radio, ORTF Live Recording (Mendelssohn); 5 March 1968, Paris, Salle Gaveau, ORTF Live Recording
MELOCLASSIC MC2034 [67:22 + 74:06]

It was a strange miscalculation that led Erick Friedman to enter the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1966. The Galamian pupil had served on the jury of the previous year’s Jacques Thibaud Competition and had been explicitly warned by the man with whose name he is most closely associated, Jascha Heifetz – with whom he had already recorded Bach’s Double Concerto - not to enter the competition. Predictably he finished sixth, the conclusion being that this was a not-so-subtle attack on Heifetz’s teaching.

This twofer offers a before-and-after-Moscow look at Friedman’s Parisian concerts from 1965-66 and 1968. From Besançon comes the Beethoven Concerto with the Orchestre National de l’ORTF directed by Wolfgang Sawallich. This is in good sound and captures some audience participation (typical rustling). The distinctively reedy tone quality of the winds is also noticeable as is Friedman’s fast vibrato and the taut intensity of his tonal production, a direct inheritance from Heifetz. The conductor brings out some military march patterns that aren’t always audible in the first movement and stamps his characterful musicianship on the music-making to advantage. Friedman depicts the slow movement with expressive directness, the swelling vibrato and echoes of Heifetz’s hooded attack being clear. Notwithstanding, there’s something rather manufactured about elements of the phrasing. The finale goes with spirit, rhythmically vibrant and with finely judged dynamics.

The other work on this first disc is the Mendelssohn Concerto with the same orchestra but this time directed by Serge Baudo. This is a digitally accomplished but rather relentless reading, and altogether a bit glum. As per Heifetz, Friedman unleashes coiling intensity in the slow movement which consequently lacks simplicity. The finale is very efficient. The foregoing should be read in the light of my antipathy to Heifetz’s performances of this work.

The second disc presents a 1968 recital with Joseph Seiger, possibly best-known in this context as Mischa Elman’s accompanist. Heifetz’s aura still remains paramount. The Vitali is dispatched with nonchalant brilliance and is very similar to Heifetz’s conception. Brahms’ D minor sonata is direct and linear with his sound drawing on the soprano rather than the tenor spectrum. His finale is especially dashing. This was followed by Debussy’s sonata where his sound is somewhat inconsistent in the opening movement, but he is full of the requisite ‘fantasque’ in the central movement. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s brief and evocative Sea Murmurs is one of the very few pieces here that Friedman recorded commercially – his famous teacher recorded it multiply of course. Paganini’s Moto perpetuo is a finger-dazzler and Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy kindles powerfully. In the final offering, the Fuga from Bach’s G minor sonata, Friedman sounds a touch nasal.

It’s unavoidable that the very look of this recital should remind one so powerfully of Heifetz, much less the nature of Friedman’s playing. If he sounded slightly freer playing the Debussy with Previn on RCA, when he came to record Sea Murmurs it was with none other than Brooks Smith, Heifetz’s erstwhile accompanist. There was just no getting away from him.

Radio announcements have been retained and the sound quality and production standards of this gatefold twofer – booklet essay, photographs – are high.

Jonathan Woolf

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