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Brahms, Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos in D
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
These are glorious performances by the most remarkable of all 20th.- century violinists, recorded pretty well, if with a balance which favours the violin a little more than it should. The Tchaikovsky Concerto was tailor-made for Heifetz, serving his astonishing virtuosity and his melting tone colours down to the ground, and Heifetz takes every opportunity to shine without ever being unfaithful to the music. The Brahms, much less of a display concerto but extremely difficult to play well, is every bit as good. Heifetz puts tremendous energy and rhythmic impetus into the first and last movements, which never sound stodgy (as they can in an ill-judged performance), and controls the lyricism in the second movement so that the climaxes sing out gloriously and the more gentle moments are beautifully intimate. Both concerti are well supported by conductor and orchestra and the disc is more than worth hearing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2014
The sound, from the mid-1950's, is marvellously caught here, doing justice to both soloist and orchestra. Reiner and Heifetz seem to be in complete agreement about how these should go, and given Heifetz's amazing facility, lovely tone, and spot-on intonation, it's impossible not to give yourself over to these performances. I have to admit that I prefer Brahms a bit slower, more confiding in the tender parts of the middle section -- I particularly like the Salerno-Sonnenberg/De Waart pacing -- but Heifetz and Reiner convince you that it can go this way too -- more extroversion, more panache, and a feeling that the final movement is what is being built up to. The slow movement is where I feel that something's missing, and I thought that perhaps its relative lack of tenderness was a result of the violin's being rather too forward in the aural mix -- but then in the Tchaikovsky, the slow movement is played with great soulfulness, and one realizes retrospectively that the Brahms interpretation was a result of a deliberate decision to go for an energetic fuller sound and to stress the virtuoso requirements. As if in confirmation, Heifetz's cadenza in the first movement is totally in keeping with his whole approach, so it's a performance with consistency and an integrity of its own. And, of course, amazing playing.

It's in the final movement of the Tchaikovsky that we hear all the stops being pulled out, and that's very exciting. In general in this concerto, Heifetz and Reiner seem more apt to savor the individual contrasting sections -- a valid approach to a piece that is less thoroughly developed than the Brahms. So there are two reasons to get this disc -- to hear how good 1950's RCA sound could be, and to hear one of the 20th Century's great soloists.
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There's not much new to say about an established classic like this one, other than to reiterate the fact that while for most listeners it represents a standard of artistry unapproached by subsequent recordings a minority will always be somewhat alienated by the crystalline purity and technical precision of Heifetz's playing.

I am not one of those although I can hear how Heifetz's distinctive purity and intensity of tone is occasionally a touch too steely for some tastes; teh opening of the Brahms reveals a diamantine clarity and a needle-sharp accuracy which contrast markedly with,say, the huskier, more honeyed sound Anne-Sophie Mutter gives Karajan. Yet Heifetz can do lush and husky, too, as he shows in the reprise of the über-romantic second theme just before the final of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky. In the high-flying pianissimo passages he is ineffably, heart-piercingly sweet and intense. He plays his own pyrotechnically dazzling cadenza in the Brahms

Reiner's accompaniment is equally crisp, sharp and attentive, always shoulder-to-shoulder alongside his soloist.The Chicago woodwind - oboe, horn, bassoon and clarinet in turn - are wonderfully warm in the Adagio of the Brahms and Reiner's no dawdling approach allows the music to flow sweetly as a purling stream.

The Living Stereo sound is terrific; just a hint more hiss in (oddly) the slightly later Tchaikovsky recording and although Heifetz liked to be recorded close his instrument is never in the listener's face; there is a broad, realistic acoustic with plenty of space around the players.
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