David Nadien Town Hall Recital = TARTINI (arr. Kreisler): Fugue in A Major; BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in D Major, Op. 12, No. 1; VIEUXTEMPS: Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 37; BACH: Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004; SCHUMANN (arr. Kreisler): Fantasia in C Major, Op. 131; WIENIAWSKI: Scherzo Tarantelle, OP. 16; VERACINI: Largo; KREISLER: Schoen Rosmarin – David Nadien, violin/Samuel Sanders, piano

Cembal d’amour Historic Series CD 140, 74:02 [Distrib. by Qualiton] ****:

Among the most cultivated and refined of violin soloists, David Nadien (b. 1926) now belongs to a small coterie of devoted admirers; one of the great pities is that no student currently trains with this past master of his instrument, who once served as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, 1966-1970. Producer-pianist Mordecai Shehori labels this elegant disc “The Memorable 1973 Town Hall Recital,” and for those in attendance, it clearly proves compelling. The Beethoven D Major Sonata stands as a perfect vehicle for Nadien’s suave, penetrating style and nasally vibrant tone, even eliciting applause at the conclusion of the first movement. Each of the variations of the second movement carries its own, colorist weight, while contributing to the larger structure that unfolds inexorably before us. Do not overlook the impeccable collaboration by Samuel Sanders (1937-1999) in the application of distinct timbres and degrees of colored dynamics that retain their plastic contour even as they mold themselves to Nadien’s every whim. The Rondo enjoys a spirited dash of muscularity and bold gestures, each player’s runs and staccati in perfect harmony. It is with a liquid, long line that Nadien moves to the three full strokes that end this joyful performance.

The Fifth Vieuxtemps Concerto “belonged” to Jascha Heifetz, so for Nadien to venture into that master’s province is to risk invidious comparison; but Nadien’s long, finely wrought lines need not fear censure. After a properly “symphonic” preparation by Sanders, Nadien makes ardent sense of Vieuxtemps delicately melodic figures and their concomitant trills and bariolage requirements. Much of the filigree eminently resembles Saint-Saens for virtuosic treatment, and Nadien does not slow down the tempo of his pyrotechnical accomplishments, which rush by us in emotive tempests. The structure of the concerto always seems lopsided: a huge first movement that falls into three sections, including a raspy cadenza; a brief Adagio–or intermezzo–of melancholy beauty; and a wisp of a finale (toccata) that whips by us like the last movement of Chopin’s B-flat Minor Sonata, but without the eerie gloom.

So much of this recital resembles one by Nathan Milstein: the opening Tartini Fugue; the Beethoven sonata; and now the unaccompanied Bach Chaconne from the D Minor Partita. An ultimate test of structural discipline and bowed stamina, the Bach piece must be approached by the law of the conservation of energy. Any sag or emotional relaxation produces an immediate distortion to the taut, variegated-but-constant musical line. Each measured episode carefully adds to the flux and mounting dynamic of the piece, a colossal, incrementally-built monument to polyphonic and fiddling art. Lithe power and a slashing, vehement application of bow pressure mark this exalted performance; and were one to claim this as a Milstein achievement, I would be hard pressed–except for the timbre of the instrument–to deny it.   

Schumann’s Fantasia in C Major, Op. 131–here in the Kreisler arrangement–was rarely heard in the 1970s, except as performed by Ruggiero Ricci. Composed in tandem with the D Minor Violin Concerto, it betrays the obsessive unity of affect that permeates many of Schumann’s dark pieces of his last, creative days. The piece does have a noble sentiment, and its cadenza exudes the same, somber vision we hear in the D Minor Violin Sonata, Op. 121. Nadien renders the Schumann with his consistent éclat and emotional commitment, as though the work deserves as much respect as the Schumann of sunnier, unburdened character.

The three encores salute Heifetz as much as they pay homage to that other genial, affirmative spirit, Fritz Kreisler. The Wieniawski–which I first heard from both Heifetz and Szeryng–drips with reverent, effortless virtuosity, a plastic fluidity of transition to make us wonder at the facile, sparkling rapport between all of the principals, composer and his two executors. Nadien plays the Veracini Largo like a fervently distilled noel, a constantly extended cantabile with only the tenderest, bare accompaniment from Sanders. The smiles Nadien evokes with his pert, elastic Schoen Rosmarin can almost be seen as well as heard, the Viennese elan having communicated itself to an audience hungry and grateful for sentiments from a gentler age.

–Gary Lemco