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Michael Rabin (violin)
A Genius on the Violin
rec. 1954-62
PROFIL PH20003 [4 CDs: 309 mins]

Profil’s four-CD selection culled from Michael Rabin’s discography contains nothing new. In fact, much will be very familiar, from his London recordings with Galliera, Matačić and Boult to the Berlin sonatas with Lothar Broddack. The less often encountered items have still done the rounds, notably the live Mozart Concerto in Denver and the world premiere of the Creston Concerto in Los Angeles. As ever with this series the programming is rather scattershot, but the concerto emphasis here is clear.

The first disc focuses on his virtuoso rendering of Ravel’s Tzigane with Boult and the Philharmonia, on Paganini No. 1 with Matačić – Flesch cadenza, incidentally - which is brilliantly accomplished but just misses the poetry, and on Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, once again with Boult. I think this was the first recording of the work after Heifetz’s and it’s beautifully done though the winds leap out like salmon and both Heifetz and, later, Perlman are the more vivid interpreters. The Havanaise with Galliera is suave and bedecked with Heifetz-slides.

The second disc brings two Russian warhorses, the Tchaikovsky (Galliera) and the Glazunov (Matačić). Rabin was a commanding interpreter of the former, never too fast, never sleekly imitative of Heifetz. In the Glazunov he is not as aristocratic as Milstein, nor as romanticised as Gimpel, but his lovely tone is everywhere in evidence and the cadenza is splendidly played, as is the interplay in the finale. It’s back to Boult for Wieniawski No.1. The previous year Boult had accompanied Mischa Elman in Wieniawski’s No.2 - it was Goossens who accompanied Rabin in this concerto on LP in 1960 - but No.1 is the rarer beast on disc. When Rabin is playing it you hardly want to hear anyone else so pyrotechnical is he, so ardent in the Preghiera and dashing in the finale with its luscious B section.

The Mendelssohn is perhaps the trickiest concerto to put across successfully. Rabin is not guiltless of some over-piquant moments, little hesitations in the finale, for example – which is taken at a reasonable speed – and overall it’s not quite from the top drawer. Mozart’s D major Concerto was recorded with Saul Caston directing the Denver Symphony in 1960. Rabin is strongly expressive in the slow movement but tries to make too much of the finale. The orchestra is competent but nothing more; the basses coagulate in the recording, which is back announced in German, so presumably this tape derives from a German relay of the broadcast. The Creston was premiŤred with Solti directing the LA Philharmonic in 1960. This featured in volume 3 of Doremi’s Rabin edition a number of years ago. Rabin plays this with interpretative incision, clarity of articulation and maximal projection. Though the sound is variable Creston’s lyricism is always audible, in the slow movement in particular with its vernacular B section and brilliant cadenza. The finale is vibrant and driving. To say that Rabin is on fire here is to misunderstand the qualities of virtuosity and feeling he evinces. It’s a wonderful example of his art caught live.

The RIAS Berlin sonata recordings are not as impressive and I discussed them when considering Doremi’s release about fifteen years ago (see review). I prefer Doremi’s transfers to Profil’s. This third disc also contains a 1955 studio recording of Bach’s Partita in C major – playing of probity and superior judgment as to vibrato usage and style. The three remaining items feature Felix Slatkin and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony accompanying in Saint-SaŽns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and pianist Leon Pommers in Debussy and Prokofiev. Le Plus que lente in the Roques arrangement is very Heifetz-like.

Collectors will have bought the EMI Icon 6-CD box when they had the chance or can still get the Testament boxes devoted to Rabin; the 6-CD studio recordings 1954-60 as well as the enticing 3-CD of unpublished recordings made from 1947 to 1971. As noted earlier, Profil’s release, with a cursory biography of the violinist in the booklet, offers no surprises and adequate transfers.

Jonathan Woolf

Ravel: Tzigane [9:26]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6[ 28:02]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Lovro von Matačić
Saint-SaŽns: Havanaise, Op. 83 [11:15]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46 [28:46]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 [33:19]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Glazunov: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82 [22:07]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Lovro von Matačić
Wieniawski: Violin Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 14 [22:49]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
Bach: Sonata for solo violin No. 3 in C major, BWV1005 [19:41]
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 8 in G major, Op. 30 No. 3 [17:23]
Lothar Broddack (piano)
Faurť: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13 [22:52]
Lothar Broddack (piano)
Saint-SaŽns: Introduction & Rondo capriccioso, Op. 28 [9:53]
Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra/Felix Slatkin
Debussy: La plus que lente [4:07]
Leon Pommers (piano)
Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges [1:33]
Leon Pommers (piano)
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 [28:43]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Adrian Boult
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K218 [25:26]
Denver Symphony Orchestra/Saul Caston
Creston: Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 78 [24:00]
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Georg Solti

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