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Beethoven & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos Original recording remastered

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, May 4, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Yehudi Menuhin and Wilhelm Furtwängler, born a generation apart and separated by a world at war, were nonetheless musical and philosophical soulmates. Their recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, made seven years after they first met, is one of the treasures of the EMI archive, a testament to a bygone era of spontaneous and deeply subjective music-making. There is a nobility to the reading that has never been equaled, an unforced passion that would be difficult for any of today's musicians to duplicate. The monaural recording is remarkably fine, with satisfying depth and abundant detail. --Ted Libbey

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Violin Concerto In D, Op. 61: 1. Allegro Ma non Troppo (Cadence: F. Kreisler)
  2. Violin Concerto In D, Op. 61: 2. Larghetto
  3. Violin Concerto In D, Op. 61: 3. Rondo (Allegro) (Cadence: F. Kreisler)
  4. Violin Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64: 1. Allegro Molto Appassionato
  5. Violin Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64: 2. Andante
  6. Violin Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64: 3. Allegretto Non Troppo- Allegro Molto Vivace


Product Details

  • Performer: Yehudi Menuhin
  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn
  • Audio CD (May 4, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00000IOBJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,311 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 10, 1999
Format: Audio CD
So far, I've heard the Beethoven Violin Concerto recordings of Heifetz/Toscanini, Milstein/Steinberg, Szeryng/Haitink, Heifetz/Munch, Sziegeti/Walter and Jamie Laredo. While I personally think that the Milstein is a remarkable asthetic jewel, the Menuhin/Furtwangler of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Op. 61, is an incredible achievement. Truly, a monumental performance and collaboration. While Menuhin attacks and stretches his amazing virtuosity, together with Furtwangler and the Philarmonia Orchestra, they glorify Beethoven's concerto. And, their Mendelssohn with the Berliner Philharmoniker is equally beautiful.
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If you love this work you won't want this recording out of your collection, even though arguably both men have an even finer performance in the catalogue: a live performance from 1947 on Music & Arts. But that performance has inferior sound--the violin almost disappears at times--while this one sounds remarkably fine for 1953. WF is on an unmatched spiritual plane here, leading the Philharmonia (NOT the Berlin Philharmonic as some reviews mistakenly say) in a communion. While Menuhin is possibly a bit more "ruddy" than in the 1948 M&A performance, he's still in fine form overall, even if he drops a note here and there and has the occasional slight intonation problem. This is Beethoven with a life that so few performers give him today, as they're too busy fretting over whether they are rending the text exactly "as Beethoven intended," rather than just living the music. Along with Chung/Tennstedt, Schneiderhan/Jochum, the aforementioned 1948 M&A (which is my top-drawer recommendation, but the sound is poor), Stern/Bernstein (especially for the wonderful handling of the cadenzas), and Zehetmair, Bruggen (HIP) for the stunningly fresh take, this is one of the must-own LvB Violin Concerti on record. Notice I didn't mention Heifetz, because I always feel he's more concerned with his own virtuosity than with Beethoven's music. I know that's not the popular view, but I've never been convinced by his recordings. But the reader need have no fear with the present release, which is superb in every way.
2 Comments 36 of 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Alright, Menuhin sometimes has trouble with intonation, and his technique is not nearly as flexible and seamless as Heifetz's. But who cares, when the interpretations are this insightful, and the playing almost uniformly beautiful? As always with the German romantics, Furtwangler is wonderful. He goes right to the spiritual heart of the Beethoven concerto, and the Mendelssohn is almost too passionate. Menuhin and Furtwangler were philosophical soul-mates, so it is to be expected that they mesh together well. Menuhin certainly doesn't dissapoint. The Philharmonia Orchestra does very well with the Beethoven, with great depth and weight of sonority, and the Berlin Philharmonic, Furtwangler's right hand as he said, is phenomenal in the Mendelssohn. The Beethoven has truly excellent mono sound, and although the sound is occasionally congested in the Mendelssohn, it is still more than tolerable.

To sum up, if you cannot stand even the slightest imperfections in performance, then this might not be for you; I suggest Heifetz's recording. But if you don't mind the occasional slip as long as it is worth the spiritual wisdom you gain, then this is unbeatable.
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In the Beethoven, reviewers here consistently prefer the live 1947 radio broadcast from the Lucerne Festival over this 1953 studio recording from London. I'm not sure the choice is that clear, however, until one knows the salient details.

Lucerne 1947: Historically, this is a touching momento of Menuhin's decision to appear with Furtwangler soon after the war, at a time when the conductor's de-Nazification was slow and painful. Menuhin's gesture helped to rehabilitate Furtwangler in circles that had condemned him, and this Beethoven concerto performance shows how musically sympathetic the two artists were. Menuhin is placed far forward in Lucerne, his tone bright and at times shrill but nonetheless warm enough to listen to without wincing. His technique is adequate to the piece but no more.

Furtwangler gives almost an identical accompaniment in both recordings, although the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is notably less polished than the Philharmonia in the studio. Sonics are good radio mono. Tempos are the same in both recordings except for the slow movement, which is 2 min. slower in Lucerne. Menuhin opens the finale firmly and in tune.

1953 London: This studio recording is in quite good mono for its day, and the Philharmonia sounds especially warm and inviting. One notes a metallic edge in both orchestra and soloist at loud volumes (I haven't heard the latest remastering, which might have solved this problem). Menuhin's technique is no longer adequate to the part, though his interpretation hasn't changed in six years. He is quite out of tune beginning the finale, with gravelly tone on the G string. In both performances his approach is cautious rather than free and rhapsodic.
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I first encountered this recording in a blue box of LPs imported from Germany by Odeon; simply entitled "Furtwangler", the box contains Beethoven's 3rd and 5th symphonies in the Vienna Philharmonic studio version; the Bayreuth version of the 9th; and the Emperor Concerto with Edwin Fischer and the Violin Concerto with Menuhin, both with the Philharmonia. The set was reprocessed by German Electrola in "Breitklang", which was a "space-opening" technology just this side of fake stereo. For at least a year I listened to the Menuhin record without much feeling one way or the other. Then one day I flipped the "mono" switch on my amplifier. All of a sudden, the fake "noise" that infected Menuhin's tone was gone, and there was his remarkable, sweet, luminous tone, a rare sound that shines from the inside. I was enthralled. I listened spellbound to one of the most personal, communicative renditions of this great piece I'd ever heard.

This is a lovely rendition, a bit more detached than the earlier Luzerne collaboration of these two great artists, perhaps less passionate but with a compensating spiritual depth. Menuhin may not have been the virtuoso he was 7 years earlier, but he still had most of his technique and sound intact. Yes, there are intonation problems, especially in the opening of the first movement. But we are a far distance from the Menuhin who sounded like he was struggling, with persistent intonation, bowing and phrasing problems and a tone which sounded increasing frayed. He might not be here the incandescent light he had been; but he was still a major artist with a deep spiritual insight into this piece and enough technique to bring it off.

Furtwanger, of course, is marvellous.
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