Heifetz Encores, Volume I = BRAHMS: 3 Hungarian Dances; BENNETT: A Song Sonata; SHULMAN: Cod Liver ’Ile; KHATCHATURIAN: Sabre Dance; PAGANINI: 2 Caprices; SGAMBATI: Serenata Napolitana; KROLL: Banjo and Fiddle; STRAVINSKY: Berceuse; RAVEL: Menuet; Valses nobles et sentimentales, Nos. 6-7; SHOSTAKOVICH: Danse Fantastique No. 2; DEBUSSY: The Girl with the Flaxen Hair; La Chevelure; DINICU: Hora Staccato; PROKOFIEV: Gavotte; March in F Minor; RACHMANINOV: Etude-Tableau, OP. 39, No. 2; Daisies; Oriental Sketch; CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO: Tango; MEDTNER: Fairy Tale in B-flat Minor; DE FALLA: Pantomime from El Amor Brujo – Jascha Heifetz, violin/ Brooks Smith, piano/ Emanuel Bay, piano – Naxos Historical 8.112072, 63:30 [Not distr. in the U.S.] ****:
The first installment of “Encores” from the massive legacy of virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) relies heavily on the RCA Victor LP LM 2382, “Heifetz,” that included inscriptions made with Brooks Smith, 1954-1956, as restored by Mark Obert-Thorn. The remainder of disc includes inscriptions made in Hollywood 1946-1947 with pianist Emanuel Bay. Having purchased the LM 2382 disc myself years ago at Sam Goody’s in New York, I recall how eager I was to hear the Saint-Saens Havanaise, having already been impressed with the Heifetz Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. The Havanaise with William Steinberg has already been transferred to another Naxos issue (8.111367). But hearing Kroll’s Banjo and Fiddle (17 December 1947) with Brooks Smith proved as endearing as the violin alters its persona to accommodate the dialogue. A Song Sonata by Robert Russell Bennett (17 December 1955) signified Heifetz’s last devotion to the American ethos in music. As commentator Tully Potter observes, where else in music does one label a movement of a suite “Belligerent”? Since very few Brahms Hungarian Dances existed on LP with Heifetz, I found his No. 11 in D Minor, No. 17 in F Minor, and No. 20 in D Minor (14 April 1956) compelling and wishing Heifetz had committed more to vinyl.
The Heifetz staccato and even spiccato has its concentrated pinnacle in Dinicu’s Hora Staccato from 1950. The Rachmaninov arrangements, at which Heifetz remained an idiomatic master, includes the series of four he inscribed 16 October 1946 with Emanuel Bay, including a moving account of the Etude-Tableau, Op. 39, No. 2. The more forward-looking Shostakovich has one example, his Danse Fantastique from his Op. 5 (18 December 1947). The Berceuse from Stravinsky’s The Firebird (18 December 1947) is all melancholy sweetness hued by Rimsky-Korsakov’s exoticism. The Sabre Dance of Khachaturian (8 December 1954) has our blood going, as it did when Levant kept insisting on performing it in Humoresque. Heifetz favors the Kreisler arrangements of Paganini Caprices (14 April 1956) with piano accompaniment: the G Minor No. 13 and No. 20 in D Major flow in that patented Heifetz burnished golden tone. Spanish and French music fill out the Russians’ contributions, which include music by Medtner and Prokofiev; the French pieces offer elegance and refinement over bravura: I would choose the simple Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Debussy (1950) as indicative of a hard-won simplicity. Heifetz adds Debussy’s chanson “La Chevelure” from the Bilitis set (16 October 1946) as another offering of pure Gallic lyricism. Equal charm saturates Sgambati’s Serenata Napolitano (10 December 1954), the passionate Heifetz vibrato all internalized. And finally, the last cut, Paul Kochanski’s arrangement of the Pantomime from El Amor Brujo (17 October 1946), here as played by Heifetz as lustrous in the salon as Stokowski proffers it at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Perhaps the most fluently consummate performer on the keyboard of all time…”