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  Living Stereo
  Sibelius, Prokofiev, Glazunov: Violin Concertos - Heifetz
  Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 47, Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op. 63, Glazunov: Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82

Jascha Heifetz (violin)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Walter Hendl (conductor)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch (conductor)

RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Walter Hendl (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 16 show all

Reviews: 3

Review by Pan Skeptic April 23, 2007 (9 of 10 found this review helpful)
I'd just like to add that the Sibelius concerto just lay there for thirty years after composition until Heifetz took it up and put it on the map. It's possible that the slow movement in this recording goes by quickly because recording tempi are usually faster than live performance, or maybe he's slightly stale after 20+ years with the piece, or it may just be that overall performance speeds have slowed down in the nearly 50 years since this recording was made.

Anyway, I find criticism of his playing style as "old fashioned" a little wacky, as Heifetz confined himself to music of his era, "old fashioned music," and can therefore be considered more authoritative stylistically than some 20-year-old fresh out of school. His vibrato, for example, helped set the standard by which we judge all Romantic violin playing.

Indeed, I don't think that Prokofiev ever complained about Heifetz, and neither did Glazunov, who was head of the St. Petersburg Conservatory when Heifetz was a student there.

Violinists will tell you that Heifetz is the violinist who, above all, does things technically that other fiddlers can't manage. Though my own personal inclination runs more to Nathan Milstein (same generation and background, better musical taste), there's no question about Heifetz' stature in the pantheon of violinists.

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Review by akiralx April 13, 2005 (9 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I listened to this in the 3 channel SACD option (using the centre as well as the front left and right speakers) - this is possible as the recordings were originally made using 3 tracks. There are also stereo SACD and normal stereo CD layers.

I began with the Prokofiev Second Concerto - Heifetz's interpretation is suitably acerbic and idiomatic, but what I noticed first was the improved balance between soloist and orchestra, better than in previous CDs I had heard of Heifetz, although not these exact recordings which were made in early 1959 and June 1963 (the Glazunov). The SACD transfer does give more prominence to the important orchestral part, and hiss seems to be non-existent.

On the downside the sound is not entirely natural, with the soloist more-or-less confined to the centre channel, with some slight ambience to the left and right channels which are dominated by the accompaniment.

Heifetz's style, with a fast vibrato and lean tone, sounds dated to my ears but is caught well. The Sibelius and Glazunov sound slightly better as recordings, but the soundstage on this SACD is never as wide as with a modern digital recording.

In terms of performance, the Prokofiev is fine with Munch a good accompanist - but I'm not a fan of Heifetz's view of the Sibelius Concerto, even if the sound is rather more realistic. Heifetz always had a fondness for fast tempi, but here that does rather undermine the work, particularly in the last two movements. He takes 6'18 over the central slow movement - most good recordings I know take about 8 minutes or more, and my favourite Anne-Sophie Mutter on DG takes 8'26. Heifetz's fast tempo really pays little respect to the composer's Adagio di molto marking - here it is barely an Andante. Mutter plumbs emotional depths that Heifetz barely hint at, and his habit of speeding up during crescendos just sounds crass.

His fast speed for the finale doesn't bother me as much, although the passage after 2'15 just comes across as a gabble here, with no time to articulate or phrase the notes. Bernstein often demonstrated, for example in the scherzo of Schumann's Second Symphony, that a slightly slower tempo for music with many short notes made the results more exciting not less, because the music can be phrased rather than rattled out.

Hendl's handling of the orchestral part is decent enough with some woodwind lines brought out nicely in the finale - but this performance can't compare with excellent recent issues by Sergei Khachatryan or Joshua Bell, never mind Mutter's superb version with Previn.

I must confess I had never heard the Glazunov Concerto before, but here Heifetz gives us some of his loveliest playing - and also plays quietly which doesn't happen often during the two major concertos. There's no shortage of good recording of this work as far as I can tell, but I'm sure this is as good a performance as any.

With 69 minutes of music and improved sound at a reasonable price, this SACD is a good buy, especially for the Glazunov, and also the Prokofiev (but this can't be a first choice) - however I can think of half a dozen versions of the Sibelius I prefer.

Sonically this doesn't quite match other 1950s reissues on SACDs that I've heard, e.g. the Reiner Pictures and Dorati Respighi SACDs. But I actually think it's Heifetz's sound I don't like rather than any deficiencies in the SACD transfer which is pretty good for its age.

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Review by Chris April 13, 2005 (5 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I generally agree with akiralx's insightful obervations regarding this release.
This is another good, if not spectacular, SACD from Living Stereo.
Both the Glazunov and the Prokofiev are excellent.
And I only feel the need to add, that in the case of the Sibelius Concerto ,I actually prefer the excellent recording and performance incidentally on the same instrument as Heifetz used,by Akiko Suwanai coupled with the Walton Violin Concerto.
The pure DSD recording by engineers Hein Dekker and Erdo Groot, is clearly superior from a technical point of view.And young Suwanai is also more poetic in the molto adagio, slow movment taking almost two minutes longer than Heifetz.
I haven't heard the Mutter. Although I think she is possibly the best violinist of our day.
I simply can't listen to her RBCD recordings for DGG, having heard her live. There is simply no comparison between her live sound and the steely and unnatural RBCD violin sound DGG has produced for too many years.
One of the great blessings with SACD is that for the first time since the introduction of digital recording,string instruments sound lifelike again.

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Works: 3  

Alexander Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82
Serge Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
Jean Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47