This new entry in the Living Stereo SACD reissue series is a welcome addition to the collection of Heifetz recordings for the label, since it brings together three different double concertos and about twice as much music as on the original LP releases. Heifetz’ collaborators are equally distinguished – Piatigorsky, Primrose and the lesser-known but excellent Erick Friedman, who was one of Heifetz’ pupils. The Bach Double Violin Concerto was only recorded originally in two channels, which seems somehow appropriate, while the Mozart and Brahms make use of the three-discrete-channels format. Three different conductors are also represented on the three recordings. Interestingly, though the more recent – 1961 – the Bach was done in just two channels. The Mozart dates from 1956 and the Brahms from 1960. The studio location is also interesting on the latter two: It was a sound stage at Republic movie studios in Hollywood.
The glorious Bach concerto is constructed like a concerto grosso, with spirited dialog between the two violins and the orchestra. Bach put even more than his usual feelings of contentment and joy into every note of this emotionally powerful and optimistic-sounding work. The rich, half-hour length Brahms concerto provides magnificent parts for both its violin and cello. It was a sort of peace offering which mended a long break in the composer’s friendship with violinist Joseph Joachim, who had been jealous of Brahm’s supposed attentions to his wife.
The solo violin concertos recorded by Heifetz have been criticized for a ham-handed sonic emphasis on the violin over the orchestra – evidently demanded by Heifetz himself. In some of the previous three-channel SACD releases this problem seemed exacerbated. However, perhaps due to the aural spotlight being shared with other soloists on all these concertos, I didn’t hear an exaggerated emphasis on the solo instruments this time around. The entire soundstage, including the soloists, is expanded in width and depth by the addition of the discrete center channel.
– John Sunier