on 7 June 2013
I first heard the "Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts" when I bought an LP of their performance of Schubert's great Quintet in C. This was my introduction to this piece and in my memory the performance was so wonderful that I've tried on and off to find it on cd. So I was delighted to find it included in this large and varied collection. The performances are all compelling, though the sound is sometimes a bit thin. However, at the price, no-one will go wrong in buying this set.
The compilers have chosen to replicate precisely the original LPs: the covers, the liner-notes, and the music. The nostalgia element is, therefore, strong, but the downside is that the cds range in length from 29 mins to just over 60 mins, with an average length of about 43 mins. The set, when judged against the amount of music we expect on a cd today, is short measure - not a genuine 21cd set, in fact. However, at the very reasonable price, and because of the variety of music in the set and the high standard of performances, this set is still excellent value (to put it mildly!). Primrose frequently joins Heifetz and Piatigorsky; Rubinstein is the pianist on the first two cds, with Leonard Pennario on the later cds.
Here's what's on the set:
CD 1: Ravel Piano Trio in A Minor; Mendelssohn Piano Trio no 1 in D Minor, op 49
CD 2: Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor, op 50
CD 3: Beethoven String Trios in G Major, op 9.1 & in C Minor op 9.3
CD 4: Beethoven String Trio in E-flat Major, op 3
CD 5: Beethoven Serenade for Violin, Viola & Cello in D Major, op 8; Kodaly Duo for Violin & Cello, op 7
CD 6: Beethoven String Trio in D Major, op 9.2; Sinfonias, nos 4, 9, & 3; Schubert String Trio in B-Flat Major, D 581
CD 7: Brahms Double Concerto
CD 8: Schubert Quintet in C Major, D 956
CD 9: Franck Piano Quintet in F Minor; Brahms String Sextet in G Major, op 36
CD 10: Mendelssohn Octet in E-Flat Major, op 20; Mozart String Quintet in G Minor, K516
CD 11: Beethoven Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, no 1, op 1.1; Haydn Divertimento for Cello & Orchestra; Rocsa, Tema con variazione for Violin, Cello & Orchestra
CD 12: Arensky Piano Trio no 1 in D Minor, op 32; Vivaldi Concerto for Violin, Cello, Strings & Continuo in B-Flat Major, R547; Martinu, Duo for Violin & Cello, no 1, H 157
CD 13 Mozart Violin Concerto no 5 in A Major (Turkish), K 219; Turina Piano Trio no 1, op 35
CD 14: Dvorak Piano Quintet no 2, in A Major, op 82; Francaix, String Trio in C Major
CD 15: Brahms Piano Trio no 3 in C Minor, op 60; Boccherini Sonata for Violin & Cello in D Major; Toch, Divertimento op 37.2
CD 16: Mozart String Quintet no 3 in C Major, K 515; Mendelssohn Piano Trio no 2 in C Minor, op 66
CD 17: Spohr, Double String Quintet in D Minor, op 65; Dvorak Piano Trio no 4 in E Minor (Dumky), op 90
CD 18: Dvorak Piano Trio no 3 in F Minor, op 65; Stravinsky Suite Italienne; Gliere, Prelude op 39.1 for Violin & Cello
CD 19: Brahms String Quintet no 2 in G Major, op 111; Beethoven Piano Trio no 6 in E-Flat Major, op 70.2
CD 20: Schubert Piano Trio no 2 in E-Flat Major, D 929; Brahms Piano Trio no 2 in C Major, op 87
CD 21: Dvorak Piano Quintet no 2 in A Major, op 81; Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence, String Sextet in D Minor, op 70
on 6 April 2015
Just an amazing bargain from RCA/Sony. Yes, one can complain about the sound being less than we would expect nowadays, but really, only on the first two discs (out of 21), which were recorded in 1950, is it a real drawback. The 1957 Beethoven String Trio discs show their age a bit, but not to an extent that would stop you from enjoying the performances. Also, I wondered about the 1960 Brahms Double Concerto disc (Wallenstein conducting), and while it's true that the solo instruments are prominent, the orchestra has plenty of presence, Wallenstein moves the piece along energetically, and Heifetz and Piatgorsky both play with passion. What we older listeners think of as "The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts" properly so-called began in the 1960's, and so about 15 of the 21 discs are devoted to them. I never owned any on vinyl, and I'm very pleased to have them now, for the sound is fine and the performances are outstanding -- alive, spontaneous-sounding, with the various additional artists contributing with distinction. Lateiner and Pennario are very positive pianists, and the other string players who join H. and P. are splendid too. I haven't played absolutely everything yet, but from the later concerts, I was impressed by the Schubert Piano Trio No. 2, which was never issued on vinyl but is a crackling performance. It's a bit less relaxed than some performances I've heard, but the music can take it. It's really good. The Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3 was also impressive. In addition to standard repertory (Mendelssohn, Mozart, Dvorak, in addition to those already mentioned), there are also pieces by Arensky, Martinu, Rosza, and Toch. I would stress that anything you might have read about Heifetz's playing being soul-less ought to be put out of your mind. This is great music, played to the hilt, and lots of it, for an incredibly low price -- about one pound sterling a disc. How can you pass it up?
on 10 August 2014
I had not heard any of these performances before and whilst I knew of Heifetz's reputation, I can only ever recall having heard an LP of the Franck Violin Sonata borrowed from my local record library around 40 years ago, so this was a journey of discovery for me and what a great journey it has been. Yes, there are faults with this set. As others have mentioned the sound quality is rather in your face, but to be fair on my equipment this just makes it seem like the musicians are at the far end of your room. Admittedly I have spent more on hi-fi than any sane person would, but the recordings do let you hear all the interplay between the various musicians found on this set so sound quality is no barrier to enjoyment, even on the earliest mono discs.
So far as the performances are concerned then arguably the set is hit and miss. Performances are in general pretty swift and bold. Sometimes this works extremely well, as with the Franck Piano Quintet which I have never managed to enjoy prior to hearing this performance. Sometimes it does not, for instance with the Dvorak Piano Quintet, where the approach killls the music, and where for instance Curzon and the Vienna Philharmonic Quartet give maximum enjoyment. But most of the time, whether the performance is ideal or not, the energy and musicianship carry you forward and make you want to listen all over again.
Everyone will have their own favourites, but my personal highlights include the Dvorak, Ravel, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky Trios, the Franck and Mozart Quintets, the Mendelssohn Octet and all the Brahms.
With lovely packaging which gives that feeling of nostalgia and a bargain price whether you regard this as a 17CD set or one with around 9CD's worth of music, this seems to me a no-brainer of a purchase, unless you own all the performances already.
on 14 January 2015
I like this very much, more than the four stars would indicate, but it looses the fifth start because of the recording quality. The RCA Monteux box, with some items dating back to 1941 has superb sound. I do not know why, perhaps Heifetz himself wanting clarity above everything else, the sound here is generally scrawny - at its worst for the start of the Turina Piano Trio.
But musically the performances are outstanding. No matter how well you know these works, the performances will tell you something new. Generally the performances, if not fast, do not hang around, often not including repeats. For instance the excellent performance of Schubert's String Quintet, compared to modern performances which can last nearly an hour, is over in 38 minutes.
Given the usual high standard of RCA's Living Stereo orchestral recordings - fantastic even from its earliest days in 1954, the relentlessness of many of these recordings goes against their musical values.
The original jackets idea does make for some very short CDs, and you will need a magnifying glass for the sleeve notes!
They are though still fantastic, insightful performances which offer incredible value for money and musical enjoyment.
on 4 February 2015
Amazing playing, as you would expect, as well as a harshness of recording that may detract from enjoyment. However, for my money, the primary requirement is with performance, not audio engineering, so long as the detail is present, and I must say that I have enjoyed few box sets as much as this one. The CD's brim with breathtaking musicianship, that you feel is directly inspired by the composer's intention - sometimes you imagine a direct transmission is taking place. Wow. A few more words about the recording, because other reviewer's have criticised its stark sonic quality. It is true, it often lacks warmth, the microphone seems to be very close, nor are you cushioned in a swash of polite playing. Heifetz technique is exposed and demonstrates a brilliance that belonged uniquely to him. My suggestion is, place a hanky over your tweeters to modify any excess of harshness and give the music a chance!
on 1 July 2013
This is the world of cast-iron reputations and it's wise to tread carefully. In the post LP era I used to pick a good few of these issues up in charity shops,and they were usually well played and often a bit worn. I could never quite make up my mind about them. The technique, of course, goes without saying,though the gold folk hear in the tone might just as much be the sound of Maria Theresa dollars piling up as aural generosity - the bright vibrato often goes with a cruising speed which doesn't encourage lingering over subtle details. The up and downsides of this sometimes appear in a single work - the Mozart C major Quintet (though RCA prefers to use a feminine spelling) has a brusque take-it-or-leave-it first movement that raises the hackles a bit, but by the time you get to the minuet the playing is fully engaged with the harmonic ambiguities and you are open-mouthed. It's coupled, as on LP, with the Mendelssohn C minor trio, savaged in Charles Rosen's book on the Romantics, and again the playing takes no prisoners, but the long paragraphs are perfectly expounded. The work, which is poorly recorded for the time, as are a good many of these discs, comes across as much better than its reputation. I'm not so sure about these performances of the Beethoven String Trios - I never was. At one time I wondered whether Heifetz had ever played in a string quartet - a genre absent from this box - but the booklet, which appears well integrated with the Heifetz official website, as you would expect, assures us that he not only had, but in public - Beethoven's Op 127, no less. I wonder what it was like.
At the moment I think the best chamber playing I've heard in the set is in the Brahms double concerto, with an anonymous band under Wallenstein, a one time cellist, who understands the work and the players from the inside and from all the other angles too. Everyone is relaxed, the soloists sing and phrase as though spontaneously and despite the occasional rough patch of recording, everything works. An orchestral piece, but it's a Heifetz-Piatigorsky disc, isn't it? If only RCA had tried to improve the sound a bit. And if only some of the chamber pieces had been a little less tense throughout.
on 12 June 2014
It isn't really necessary to praise these performances, in one form or another they have been available since they were first released in the late 1950s and early 1960s.One or two composers, Vivaldi for example, would not meet modern style requirements, but listen to the Mozart and Brahms!
All the playing is very well balanced, but one note of warning, the sound for the most part is very close and dry. If you prefer your sound to be a bit warmer and more distanced, beware.
There is a good booklet, and the sleeves have the original LP artwork. Each disk contains exactly what was on the original LP, which makes some of it rather short measure, nevertheless, 21 CDs with these fine artists represents a huge bargain.
on 22 December 2013
Great to have them all. Some delicious new finds as well as old and familiar friends. Hours and hours of pleasure
on 9 February 2015
First class performances, as you would expect from two masters.
on 7 February 2015
Excellent, highly recommended.