Jascha Heifetz - The Complete Stereo Collection Remastered
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Jascha Heifetz has been called the first and greatest of all virtuosos. Critics agree when RCA Victor once dubbed him The Violinist of the Century . Now all of Heifetz s stereo recordings are being issued together in a single Sony Classical box of 24 CDs, coupled by composer and remastered from the original analogue tapes in 24-bit / 192 kHz and DSD® quality. Heifetz authority John Maltese provides a new introductory essay.
Less than two weeks after his sensational US debut at Carnegie Hall, a 16-year-old Russian émigré named Jascha Heifetz protégé of the legendary St. Petersburg violin teacher Leopold Auer and already acclaimed in Europe made his first Victor recordings. Some 40 years later he began re-recording much of the mainstream violin repertoire for RCA Victor in stereo. These performances find Heifetz at his most intense and glowing, wrote Gramophone in its March 1988 obituary, and their continued release on CD is building up a stunning three-dimensional sound-picture of Heifetz at his peak.
In warhorses like the Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos, his stereo LPs set new standards. Reviewing a previous reissue, ClassicsToday exclaimed: Heifetz and Munch play the [Beethoven] with a classical poise and chiseled perfection. It goes without saying that Heifetz s flawless intonation and ear-catching articulation leave most other players in the shade. As for the Mendelssohn, this is simply the greatest performance yet recorded. The work was made for Heifetz: Mendelssohn was himself a romantic of classical restraint and created a virtuoso showpiece that requires total control over the instrument. Another typical Heifetz review, this time from Fanfare on his Bruch and Vieuxtemps: There was simply no one who could play this florid Romantic music like Heifetz ... This is the finest recording of Bruch s masterpieces ever made in terms of both performance and sound. As the Gramophone obituary also noted, it is doubtful if any other international soloist lavished so much time and energy on chamber music, notably in the concerts and recordings with cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, which began in 1961 and are documented in this collection. Heifetz s repertoire also featured a vast array of show-stopping virtuoso pieces and his own brilliantly effective transcriptions. Those are also generously represented in this box set.
The great violinist s last session was a live recording of his last public performance, on 23 October 1972 in Los Angeles. Here it is complete on two CDs. Critic Tim Page has written that the program in both its planning and its execution was not markedly different from one Heifetz might have offered decades before. From the beginning of the Franck Sonata rapt, centered, directly linear in its phrasing, immaculately aristocratic in its bearing there can be no mistaking the artist ... There is something noble about Heifetz s constancy. Few performing artists have exercised such meticulous control over their creative lives.
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These recordings were released on CD twice before: In 1994 and 2010 (see photos)
- along with the complete mono recordings.
Most recently they were part of the 104 CD "Jascha Heifetz Complete Album Collection"
The 104 discs were made necessary by the "Original Jacket" format - some discs had very short timings.*
The new box is 24 CDs
NOT an "Original Jacket" collection.
Album covers are reproduced, but the contents have been re-shuffled.
Original program notes are replaced by track listings.
Each disc is now very well-filled and logically arranged:
CD 1-7 = Violin Concertos
CD 8 = Duos with Gregor Piatigorsky cello
CD 9 = String Trios with William Primrose viola and Piatigorsky cello
CD 10-13 = Piano Trios
CD 14-15 = Piano Quartets and Piano Quintets
CD 16-19 = Chamber Music for Strings
CD 20-24 = Piano Sonatas and Encores with piano accompaniment
The title of this box is "Jascha Heifetz - Complete Stereo Collection Remastered".
But CDs 1-5 are DEFINITELY NOT newly remastered:
These five discs reproduce the CD layer of ten-year-old RCA "Living Stereo" SACDs.
Nothing wrong with that.
Credited to engineers Dirk Sobotka, Philipp Nedel and Mark Donohoe, those hybrid discs had both CD and SACD layers.
The CD transfer is excellent (the SACD layer was even better).
The SACDs are worth looking into.**
2010 Box = "24 bit/96 kHz mastered by Martin Kistner, Philipp Nedel and Hansjorg Seiler, b-sharp music & media"
2016 Box = "24 bit/96 kHz mastered by Martin Kistner, b-sharp music & media solutions, transferred by Brett Zinn".
[quoted from page 79 of the 2016 booklet - ignore Amazon's claim of 24-bit /192 kHz.]
The same company (b-sharp) is responsible for the 2010 and 2016 remasterings.
There was a dramatic difference between 1994 and 2010,
but I hear virtually no difference between 2010 and 2016.
[I don't claim that my hearing is state of the art -- I am, after all, in my sixties.]
There has not been that much technical advancement in six years.
DSD (Direct Stream Digital), which dates to 1999, is used in the early stages of remastering the original tapes, and in all stages of SACD manufacture,
but no CD has enough memory to cope with Direct Stream Digital.
Before transfer to CD, the final stage involves dumbing down to the older PCM technology (Pulse Code Modulation) .
Only two currently available disc formats have enough giggly bits to accurately reproduce Direct Stream Digital:
SACD and Blu-Ray Audio.
Still, this is the best this music has ever sounded on CD, and the box is recommended
(perfectionists can supplement it with the five Sony SACDs.**)
I hope Sony follows this up with the "Jascha Heifetz Complete Mono Collection"
It would be twice as large as the "Complete Stereo Collection"
- At least fifty CDs.
There are a lot of works that Heifetz never recorded in stereo
For a partial list, see the first comment (dated August 26, 2016) following this review.
If the companion mono box is as logically assembled as the stereo box, I will gladly sell my 104 CD "Original Jacket" Collection, and replace it with two new boxes.
24 CDs in cardboard jackets in an unusually sturdy box with a lift-off lid.
The 80 page hardcover booklet is a thinner version of the 312 page booklet in the 2010 "Complete Album Collection".
The 2010 booklet had an eleven page article by John and John Anthony Maltese.
The 2016 booklet has a new seven page article by the same authors.
The new booklet does not have the alphabetical composer discography (indexed to CDs) of the earlier booklet.
This is not as big a problem as it might be, due to the logical arrangement of the contents, which makes it easy to find a particular work (I created an index anyway)
- Bach: Two Violin Concerto w/Friedman -- Sargent, New Symphony of London (1961, CD5)
- Beethoven: Concerto -- Munch, Boston Symphony (1955, CD2)
- Benjamin: Romantic Fantasy for Violin & Viola w/Primrose -- Solomon, RCA Symphony (1956, CD7)
- Brahms: Concerto -- Reiner, Chicago Symphony (1955, CD1)
- Brahms: Violin & Cello Concerto w/Piatigorsky -- Wallenstein, RCA Symphony (1960, CD5)
- Bruch: Concerto 1 -- Sargent, New Symphony of London (1962, CD4)
- Bruch: Scottish Fantasy -- Sargent, New Symphony of London (1961, CD4)
- Glazunov: Concerto -- Hendl, RCA Symphony (1963, CD3)
- Mendelssohn: Concerto -- Munch, Boston Symphony (1959, CD2)
- Mozart: Concerto 4 -- Sargent, New Symphony of London (1962, CD6)
- Mozart: Concerto 5 -- conducted by Heifetz (1963, CD6)
- Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin & Viola w/Primrose -- Solomon, RCA Symphony (1956, CD5)
- Prokofiev: Concerto 2 -- Munch, Boston Symphony (1959, CD3)
- Rozsa: Concerto -- Hendl, Dallas Symphony (1956, CD7)
- Rozsa: Tema con Variazioni for Violin & Cello w/Piatigorsky -- conducted by Heifetz (1963, CD7)
- Sibelius: Concerto -- Hendl, Chicago Symphony (1959, CD3)
- Tchaikovsky: Concerto -- Reiner, Chicago Symphony (1957, CD1)
- Vieuxtemps: Concerto 5 -- Sargent, New Symphony of London (1961, CD4)
- Vivaldi: Violin & Cello Concerto RV547 w/Piatigorsky -- conducted by Heifetz (1963, CD6)
DUOS FOR VIOLIN & CELLO (with Gregor Piatigorsky)
- Boccherini: Sonata in D for Violin & Cello (1964, CD8)
- Gliere: Prelude for Violin & Cello Op.39, No.1 (1964, CD8)
- Handel-Halvorsen: Passacaglia HWV432, No.6 (1963, CD8)
- Kodaly: Duo for Violin & Cello (1960, CD 8)
- Martinu: Duo for Violin & Cello (1964, CD8)
- Stravinsky: Suite Italienne for Violin & Cello (1963, CD8)
- Toch: Divertimento for Violin & Cello (1965, CD8)
- Bach: Three-Part Inventions BWV789,790,795 arr. String Trio (1960, CD 9)
- Beethoven: Serenade (String Trio) Op.8 (1960, CD 9)
- Beethoven: String Trio Op.9, No.2 (1960, CD 9)
- Francaix: String Trio in C (1964, CD18)
- Schubert: String Trio 2, D.581 (1960, CD 9)
PIANO TRIOS, QUARTETS AND QUINTETS (with Leonard Pennario or Jacob Lateiner)
- Arensky: Piano Trio 1, Op.32 (1963, CD13)
- Beethoven: Piano Trio Op.1, No.1 (1964, CD10)
- Beethoven: Piano Trio Op.70, No.2 (1963, CD10)
- Brahms: Piano Trio 2, Op.87 (1963, CD11)
- Brahms: Piano Quartet 3, Op.60 (1965, CD15)
- Dvorak: Piano Trio 3, Op.65 (1963, CD12)
- Dvorak: Piano Trio 4, Op.90 "Dumky" (1968, CD12)
- Dvorak: Piano Quintet Op.81 (1964, CD14,15) Two recordings, made six months apart:
--- March 1964 (CD14) final recording session with Heifetz' long-time (23 years) violist William Primrose, not approved for release.
--- November 1964 (CD15) remake with violist Joseph de Pasquale, issued on LP
- Franck: Piano Quintet in F Minor (1961, CD14)
- Mendelssohn: Piano Trio 2 (1963, CD13)
- Schubert: Piano Trio 2, D.929 (1965, CD11)
- Turina: Piano Trio 1, Op.35 (1963, CD13)
CHAMBER MUSIC FOR STRINGS
- Brahms: String Quintet 2, Op.111 (1968, CD19)
- Brahms: String Sextet 2, Op.36 (1960, CD17)
- Mendelssohn: String Octet (1961, CD18)
- Mozart: String Quintet K.515 (1964, CD16)
- Mozart: String Quintet K.516 (1961, CD 16)
- Schubert: String Quintet D.956 (1961, CD17)
- Spohr: Double Quartet Op.65 (1968, CD18)
- Tchaikovsky: String Sextet "Souvenir de Florence" (1968, CD19)
- Tchaikovsky: Serenade melancolique - violin & conducted by Heifetz (1968, CD19)
- Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings - Waltz arr. violin & strings (1970, CD19)
SONATAS FOR VIOLIN & PIANO (with Brooks Smith unless otherwise indicated)
- Beethoven: Sonata 9, Op.47 "Kreuzer" (1960, CD21)
- Ferguson: Sonata Op.2 with Lillian Steuber (1966, CD20)
- Franck: Sonata in A (1972, CD22)
- K. Khachaturian: Sonata Op.1 with Lillian Steuber (1966, CD20)
- Schubert Fantasy in C, D.934 (1968, CD21)
- Saint-Saens: Sonata 1, Op.75 (1967, CD20)
- R. Strauss: Sonata in E Flat, Op.18 (1972, CD22)
ENCORES FOR VIOLIN & PIANO (with Brooks Smith - except unaccompanied Bach)
- Bach: Partita BWV1004 for Unaccompanied Violin: Chaconne (1970, CD24)
- Bach: Partita BWV 1006 for Unaccompanied Violin: Prelude, Loure & Gigue (1972, CD23)
- Bloch: Nigun from Baal Shem (1972, CD23)
- Gershwin: Three Preludes (1965, CD20)
- Gershwin: Six Songs from 'Porgy and Bess' (1965, CD20)
- Kreisler: La Chasse - in the style of Cartier (1972, CD23)
- Ravel: Tzigane - with piano accompaniment (1972, CD23)
- Wieniawski: Capriccio-Valse, Op.7 (1967, CD24)
- transcriptions (recorded 1965) of Debussy, Ibert, Poulenc, Ravel and Saint-Saens (CD21)
- transcriptions (recorded 1967) of Falla, Rachmaninov and Sibelius (CD24)
- transcriptions (recorded 1970) of Debussy, Gershwin, Korngold, Mozart, Prokofiev (CD24)
- transcriptions (recorded 1972) of Castelnuevo-Tedesco, Debussy, Falla, Rachmaninov (CD23)
BONUS: Korngold: "Garden Scene" from "Much Ado About Nothing" rehearsal and excerpts, narrated by Jascha Heifetz (1970, CD4)
This is totally mislabeled.
You actually get 7:29 of Heifetz rehearsing unaccompanied Bach, and talking about music (but not Korngold) and electric cars (?), followed by 28 seconds of Korngold (excerpted from the published recording)
* The 104 CD box issued in 2010 = Jascha Heifetz - The Complete Album Collection
** Hybrid SACDs:
Beethoven, Mendelssohn = Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
Brahms, Tchaikovsky = Brahms: Violin Concerto, op77 / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, op35
Bruch, Vieuxtemps = Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1; Scottish Fantasy & Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto No. 5
Glazunov, Prokofiev, Sibelius =Violin Concertos (Heifetz) [Sacd/CD Hybrid]
Double Concertos = Concerto For Two Violins (Heifetz)
"Hybrid" SACDs have both CD and SACD content.
The new box has CD content only.
There may never be another violinist who dominates both the public imagination as well as the admiration of his peers, as Heifetz did for more than 70 years. His technique was incomparably smooth and flawless. His intonation was rich and warm and his accuracy was legendary, regardless of the speed of a particular passage. His ability to express the emotions hidden within the notes was nearly supernatural in its effect on the listener. There was something almost superhuman about his playing, an attribute that induced George Bernard Shaw writing as a music critic to suggest that Heifetz flub some notes occasionally in order to assure his audience that he was indeed human.
Sony has now released all of the stereo recordings made by Heifetz for RCA in a small box set, beginning with the earliest one, the Brahms Violin Concerto featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner, beautifully recorded in February 1955. What distinguishes this collection, in fact, is the sheer sonic beauty of the original recordings. All of the Heifetz recordings - stereo and mono - have been released multiple times. Two massive collections of his music, originally designed for completists, have already been produced. Released first in its entirety in 1994 and then piecemeal through 1997, The Heifetz Collection featured re-masterings that reflected the cutting-edge technology of the time. The results were fairly good, although primitive noise reduction software often resulted in the loss of some brilliance and sparkle inherent in the analogue recordings. In 2008, Sony released what appears to have been an experimental 10 CD Original Jacket Collection that featured original LP timings, album art and better re-mastered sound. This was followed by the Sony release of the massive Jascha Heifetz - The Complete Album Collection in March 2011, a limited edition 104 CD box set featuring original cover art, album notes and the shorter original LP timing. It is now out-of-print and fetching very expensive third-party dealer prices.
This new set seems to follow the lead of the recent release of Living Stereo SACDs in offering compilations of music rather than original LP timings, with the first five discs re-mastered by their original Soundmirror mastering and DSD engineers. Almost all of the 24 CDs are an hour or more in length. The collection's running time is 1479 minutes or nearly 25 hours of music. The first few notes of the first CD, the Brahms Violin Concerto, alerts the listener to how proficient Sony has become in re-mastering old recordings using high-definition 24bit/96khz, 24 bit/192khz and DSD technology. Noise reduction is carefully and minimally applied. The sound of these recordings is remarkably warm, rich, sonically complex and boasts an especially robust depth of field. It is almost disconcerting that recordings made in 1955 sound as if they were made this year. As the chronologically ordered set continues to play, the recordings become even warmer and more lifelike, with musical richness and presence, and a broad soundstage that features a substantial airiness throughout the instrumental textures. It represents a major improvement in the sound of these beautifully recorded analogue tapes made in the 1950s and 60s. And that is the best way to describe the audio quality of this collection: it is a very close approximation of vinyl's warmth and lifelike sound.
The concerto releases are often revelatory. The brilliant Heifetz performance of the Rozsa Violin Concerto (heard as the theme music in the Billy Wilder film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes) has never sounded more urgent. The Sibelius, Prokofieff and Glazunoff concertos now brood and conjure their dark, probing images in fullness and depth. The Mozart and Bach concertos now sparkle and come alive, uplifting the listener even more. The chamber music performances now sound as if they occupy a real space, as if the performance stage shared the listener's room and you might reach out and touch the performers. The Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvorak trios, quartets, quintets, sextettes and octets have never sounded better.
If you already own most or all of these Heifetz recordings and are satisfied with them, then this collection is a pointless duplication and an unnecessary extravagance. If audiophile quality sound is important to you, or if you've been disappointed with the sound of previous releases, then consider this collection a confectionary treat and an auditory upgrade whose improved sound will increase your listening pleasure by a great deal. I own both of the previously released Heifetz collections but after listening to the newly re-mastered stereo recordings in this new box set, the older stereo versions sound somewhat primitive in comparison. Whether you think this box set is worth purchasing is entirely dependent upon how much you value pristine audiophile quality sound. If an audiophile lurks somewhere within you, then you will probably crave this collection, but the decision is a highly personal one. The box also contains a nice little hard-cover book that contains rudimentary discographic information, photos and original album covers. The original album notes, however, are nowhere to be found and I consider that lamentable.
Well - perhaps. Heifetz remains nonpareil, and these classic historic recordings have never sounded better than in their most recent remasterings. In addition, the master had the good fortune of being accompanied by the finest orchestras, conductors, and individual musicians. Certainly, no one will be disappointed by the good value represented in these recordings; neither the neophyte building a classical library, nor the experienced collector.
Having said that (sorry Larry David) I must say that while Heifetz' technique and musicianship always leaves me in awe, it never brings a tear to my eye. Yes, the finale of the Tchaikovsky makes me want to jump out of my seat (thanks to Reiner/Chicago as well) but truth be told, there are other violinists who pull on my heart strings a lot more. Just one example: Milstein playing Mendelssohn's violin concerto is to die for. And generally, I prefer Perlman who has/had the technique as well as the interpretive skill.
Oh well - chaque on sont gout. Who am I to argue with Perlman (and others) who regarded Heifetz as the greatest violinist of all time? I can say this: if you are fortunate enough to purchase this box set you will not regret it. Indeed, you will hear musicianship of the highest order in the finest sound ever available to us mere mortals.