Brahms: Violin Concerto, op77 / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, op35 Hybrid SACD, Original recording remastered
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Top Customer Reviews
The Brahms is a fleet performance which has an accompanying fluency of delivery that almost defies the restrictions of bar lines. This is especially true of the slow movement which is played almost like a free improvisation. The last movement is driven fast but not allowed to sound like gypsy music. The first movement is fast enough for the instruction 'ma non troppo' (not too much) to be pushed to the limit. Such is the transcendence of the playing that it overcomes any doubts and this has been a long-time favourite performance for me while realising that it is also something of a one-off. Heifetz plays his own cadenza in the first movement which is spectacular but is arguably less satisfying than Joachim's which is normally played and as Brahms would have expected. Magical moments where Heifetz plays sustained high melodic lines with such unique tone are still breathtaking.
The Tchaikovsky is also fleet. This is more of a deliberately virtuoso concerto and Heifetz delivers totally. There are a few passages of double stopping that are unique to this disc but there is no explanation as to whether they have been added in or are original bars not played by anyone else. The connection between Heifetz and Tchaikovsky is that Heifetz's teacher, Leopold Auer, was the dedicatee who initially refused to play the piece and pronounced it as unplayable. He later revised this verdict, after which the connection was made with Heifetz.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What a difference SACD makes! Now, when I listen to this work, I have a much different reaction. Hearing Heifitz located on the stage just a few steps from where Reiner is leading his band, this now sounds to me more impassioned than ever before, as if the chemistry between the two highly driven performers and the virtuoso orchestra resulted in a fast reading that was driven by a burning passion and not impatience.
So what happened; does the SACD recording show a different reality or did I just get older and appreciate the greatness of these performers more in my maturity?
I think both things happened. I know I appreciate Heifitz a lot more in SACD than I ever did in stereo and the sound on this SACD -- especially when I listen with headphones -- brings dimension to the recording that never existed before. It also shows the level of detail Reiner required from his orchestra and its ability to meet his technical demands.
I enjoyed the Tchaikovksy concerto that is mated with the Brahms here but less so. The chemistry doesn't seem to be the same between the partners, who were both high profile literalits in mid 20th century. Their collective insistence on literalism probably took some of the Slavic character away from the Tchaikovsky concerto, making it another top European concerto from the late Romantic period instead of an individual opus.
I listened to Heifitz's SACD recording of the Sibelius concerto after hearing the Tchaikovksy. There, Heifitz delivered a more characterful and intense performance that projected the icy Scandanavian nature of the composer. This is the element I think the Tchaikovsky concerto lacks -- the overwhelming passion of the emotionally charged and conflicted Russian composer.
Still, this is a great CD replicated in up to the minute super audio sound that usesof all three forward speakers without surround sound. RCA tells us in its technical packaging that the third speaker is a come and go proposition in SACD reissues because that's the way they were recorded. I noticed the middle channel in use every time I got next to the speaker in this recording.
This should appeal to music historians, fans of the two concertos, musicologists and audiophiles that want to know what three-channel recordings sounded like in the early days of stereo. Even this slight misgiving I have about the Tchaikovsky, this CD powerfully appeals to me.
This Brahms shows off why other violinists, even the greatest, remain in awe of Heifetz. Example 1: after the cadenza in the 1st movement, he plays the final iteration of the main theme, high up on the top string, with a vibrance and beauty of sound that no other violinist I have heard can duplicate. Most moving. Example 2: the entire second movement and for much the same reason. Superb placement and architecture of the musical line, delivered with aplomb, no technical insecurity whatever, and with glorious tone. Heifetz obviously thought deeply about this movement and delivers a matchless account of it. I recognize that some will find the whole concerto somewhat fast. I did too, but now everybody else sounds draggy.
I am less happy with the sound of the Tchaikovsky. Yes, this is the best incarnation available of Heifetz's 1957 recording, but to me it still sounds a bit dry and boxy. That said, there are still those spots where other players can't touch him. The man had an unrivaled ability to maintain vibrance and beauty of sound in very rapid passages, all the way up to the very highest notes. There are a number of places in the 1st movement that show this gift to great advantage.
So buy it. Worth owning!
This classic pairing of Brahms and Tchaikovsky concertos with Heifetz and Reiner was always in good sound, despite the early recording dates, 1955 and 1957 respectively (the Tchaikovsky being the far superior one sonically). I bought this hybrid SACD to play in normal two-channel CD format, and it is impeccable. There is still a hint of wiriness in Heifetz's tone in the Brahms, but the Tchaikovsky sounds completely natural. Heifetz is far from my favorite violinist, but he deserves the best sound possible, and for the time being at least, he has it.
The slow movement benefits from the Chicago Symphony's wonderful oboe soloist. You don't hear such a distinguished sound from today's homogenized orchestras. This recording remains a classic and is genuinely aided by the SACD technology. There was always a bit of clipping heard in loud passages on this 1955 recording but the SACD remastering adds some clarity and edge to those once blurred passages.
The Tchaikovsky is quite exciting but not in the same league as the Brahms in comparison with all its competition. If you prefer a more relaxed and romantic approach to the Brahms, then I'd recommend the Perlman-Guilini recording also made in Chicago. Oistrakh also recorded it with Klemperer on EMI as did Milstein with the Philharmonia, both at budget prices. I think anyone who admires this piece should hear more than one recording. It lends itself to many approaches.