Beethoven & Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos Import
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BRONISLAW HUBERMAN(VIOLIN) - BEETHOVEN/TCHAIKOVSKY - CD
Huberman was one of the century's greatest violinists, noted for the profundity of his interpretations and the electric individualism of his playing. His 1934 version of the Beethoven concerto with Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic stands among the best recordings of the piece, especially notable for the rapt intensity of the Larghetto movement. The Tchaikovsky, too, is a recorded landmark. Here, Huberman's flexible rubato, coloristic shadings, and rich tone put to shame the literalism of so many contemporary interpretations. The shaping of the violin's first entry is a virtual lesson in romantic phrasing and the Andante sings with rarely achieved poignancy. Mark Obert-Thorn's transfers are excellent. At Naxos's budget price, there's no excuse for not getting this one, no matter how many versions of these pieces you have. --Dan Davis
Top customer reviews
With a great Russian folk dimension.
The rest of the performance is really great as well.
LONGER REVIEW: This CD is compromised on several fronts, some related to the quality of the transfers, and others deriving from the performances. To judge from the Amazon editorial review here, one might assume that the Beethoven is a worthier reading than the Tchaikovsky (I think it's the other way around). That review is also in error regarding the transfers: only the Tchaikovsky transfer work was done by Mark Obert-Thorn (the lesser Beethoven was done by David Lennick).
Here is a brief discussion of just why I find this Naxos CD rather disappointing:
1. While Obert-Thorn's transfer of the Tchaikovsky is very good, I still prefer the sound heard on a 4-disc CD set from EMI (1993) titled "Tchaikovsky Historical" (absurdly, it's now out of print). The Naxos transfer brings the orchestra into fuller view at the expense of the soloist, while in EMI's Huberman is more prominent. He's the reason I'm listening in the first place, so I opt for the EMI collection. The latter is sort of a mixed bag: I'll probably never sit through Karajan's "Romeo & Juliet" or Cantelli's 5th Symphony again, but this set has the only CD transfer of Furtwangler's superb 4th Symphony (with the Vienna Philharmonic) and an excellent transfer of Solomon's 1st Piano Concerto (Dobrowen & the Philharmonia).
2. For sheer drama and virtuoso playing, Huberman is in a class of his own. But there are certainly other versions of the Tchaikovsky that convey more of the work's poetry, such as Oistrakh's 60th birthday "live" concert account with Rozhdestvensky - it's in an indispensable 5-disc Melodiya CD set (and it doesn't have the Huberman version's large cuts in the score, especially in the 3rd mvt). Another poetic version I wouldn't be without is the "live" 1940 Erica Morini reading, with Igor Stravinsky conducting the NY Phil. on a Doremi CD.
3. This way with Beethoven, to my ears, is a shade relentless, and I find most of Szell's conducting here rather foursquare and metronomic. I could name a dozen conductors who bring more feeling and perception to this score than Szell, perhaps none more so than the "live" 1953 Furtwangler account with Schneiderhan (mine's on DG Heliodor LP). The wacky 1st mvt. cadenza used by Huberman - a Frankensteinian amalgam of Beethoven & Paganini - is fascinating, but hardly comparable to the usual cadenzas by Joachim or Kreisler. Beethoven didn't write a cadenza here, but he did compose one for his piano transcription of the violin concerto (with a prominent part for tympani). An interesting performance of the latter was on an ancient SPA LP conducted by F. Charles Adler, with Helen Schnabel (Artur Schnabel's daughter-in-law) as soloist. Among historic performances of the violin concerto, I still prefer Kreisler/Blech (with the Kreisler cadenza, of course, on M&A), Szigeti/Walter (on EMI - it uses the Joachim cadenza, although Szigeti's stereo re-make with Dorati for Mercury used the Busoni cadenza), and Adolf Busch/Fritz Busch (mine is on M&A LP: Busch plays his own tasteful cadenza).
4. In my reviews of several Weingartner Beethoven performances on Naxos, I noted that the transfers suffered from excessive use of noise reduction, and that's EXACTLY what's wrong with THIS Beethoven concerto. This Huberman is also available on an APR CD (with Huberman's stunning account of Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole") in FAR better sound (and also for a much higher price). Even my cheap Magic Talent CD (where the Beethoven is coupled with the interesting Casals/Szell recording of Dvorak's Cello Concerto) has much better sound than this Naxos.
If you are primarily interested in Huberman's GREAT account of the Tchaikovsky, this inexpensive Naxos CD is more than adequate. But if you are a Szell fan or appreciate Huberman's way with the Beethoven more than I do, you'll probably be a little disappointed here.
The restoration of the Tchaikovsky is very nice, too, but I think you'll notice that the quality of the original is not up to the standard of the Beethoven.
I've had the opportunity over the years to hear a number of note-perfect, pretty, phoned-in performances of both of these concerti, both live and on records. You may have had this experience--the performance is wonderful while it's happening, but a half-hour later one has a hard time remembering what one heard. This is definitely NOT such a performance of the Beethoven. It's one to remember. While audiophiles may not find the sound altogether pleasing, if you care about these concerti, this CD belongs in your library--and at Naxos' incredible price, one can hardly afford not to own it.