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Szigeti Columbia v2 PASC660

Joseph Szigeti (violin)
The European Columbia Records Volume 2
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op  61 (1806)
Minuet in G, G167, WoO 10, No 2 arr Burmester
Violin Sonata No 8 in G major, Op 30 No 3: Allegro vivo (1802)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Piano  Sonata No 17 in D major, Op 53/D850 arr Friedberg (1825)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Sonates progressives; Violin Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op 10 (1816) arr. Szigeti
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Caprice in B minor, Op 1 No 2 (pub 1820)
Caprice in E major, Op 1 No 9 La Chasse (pub 1820)
Caprice in A minor, Op 1 No 24 [two versions] (pub 1820)
Kurt Ruhrseitz (piano : Beethoven, Paganini)
Nikita Magaloff (piano : Schubert, Weber)
British Symphony Orchestra/BruNo  Walter
rec. 1926-1936

The second volume in Pristine Audio’s survey of Szigeti’s European (ie British) Columbias continues in fine style and will dovetail nicely with Sony’s big 17-CD box devoted to the violinist’s Columbia recordings made between 1938 and 1956 (review).

Obviously, there is a major work here with satellite morsels. The Beethoven Concerto was recorded in Central Hall, Westminster in 1932 with Bruno  Walter and the British Symphony Orchestra, an ad hoc band of the time that often did work for the Royal Philharmonic Society. If you review long enough, you’ll find you can listen to updated remasterings of the same work by the same transfer engineer and so it is here. Mark Obert-Thorn transferred this classic Szigeti-Walter for Naxos two decades ago in which form I reviewed it (review). Naturally I’ve not – and have never – changed my mind about it, notwithstanding the remake the two made in America. This is Szigeti at his freshest and best and the transfer complements him. Obert-Thorn seems to be leaving in a tad more surface noise to generate the maximum in tonal breadth and room ambience in his more recent transfers and this is aNo ther example, which is strongly to the advantage of the remastering. The concerto sounds splendid and only a sonic fetishist would object to it – though, alas, there are too many of those around.

The smaller works are grouped by composer. There’s a sparkling Schubert-Friedberg Rondo with Nikita Magaloff valiantly keeping pace. The Weber Sonata is Szigeti’s own arrangement and full of operatic bravura with some conversational exchanges between lower and upper strings – basso and soprano  Then there are the Paganini pieces. The earliest in the Caprice Op 1 No 24 heard in two different versions from 1926 and 1928. The later version has a larger complement of repeats and is the better played. Szigeti still employed the Ferdinand David piano  accompaniment but by 1933 when he recorded Op 1 No 9 it was solo, as was the Op 1 No 2 two years later – incidentally at almost the same time, for the same company, and in the same city (London), that William Primrose was making his epochal recordings of Caprices 5 and 13 for solo viola. These smaller pieces were available on Biddulph years ago, in Ward Marston’s 1989 transfers. Superficially remastering rivals, doubtless these two American maestri of the turntable arts are the best of friends so I can merely No te that Obert-Thorn’s transfers are brighter and more forward. I can’t quite tell if that brightness comes from a very slight tightening of the pitch or not but it’s certainly a brighter sound. The Marston transfers were, in any case, made over 30 years ago.

This volume is as valuable as the first in the series and offers what must be a cornerstone Beethoven Concerto for any historically-sentient collector.

Jonathan Woolf

Published: October 3, 2022

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