BBC Legends BBCL 4210-2, 71:28 (Distrib. Koch) ****:
Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988), the great Polish violin virtuoso and cosmopolite, had to be one of the best-prepared musicians of his generation – trained in composition, piano, and in the humanities generally. My personal association with him came about because of the Atlanta Virtuosi and its leader, Juan Ramirez, who was Szeryng’s protégé. Szeryng, for all of his Paris pedagogy under Thibaud and Brouillon, never forgot that Artur Rubinstein literally revived a moribund career. In 1987, I had the pleasure of being among the Atlanta audience that heard the North American premiere of the D Major Concerto of Reynaldo Hahn with Szeryng and Louis Lane. The BBC concert (26 February 1972) while generous, is not complete; the Bach 2-Violin Concerto with Jose Luis Garcia had a brief, elusive incarnation on the Intaglio label (INCD 7201), coupled with a rare Sibelius Concerto with Barbirolli. We do retrieve the crisp, energized G Major Concerto of Mozart with Szeryng directing from the solo position, the cadenzas by Sam Franko. Szeryng’s approach to the lovely Adagio is particularly broad, indulging in rhythmic give and take most artful. Robust, galant figurations for the Rondo, rhythmically incisive while the larger texture retains a demure, salon effect.
Stylish, fast-paced Vivaldi, though not without the occasional ritard and accelerando of the romantic temper. Szeryng’s tone and technique are in top form, with razor-sharp intonation, always moving to the musical point, whether an arched phrase or a tempered diminuendo. A superheated Summer Concerto in G Minor, rife with rubato and schwung, a long, tensile melodic line and pungent basso continuo. The downpour that ends the concerto quite sweeps one away with its power and passion. A few audience coughs and we segue into the Concerto in F, Autumn, alternately marcato and gaily exuberant, Szeryng’s spiccati deftly articulate. A robust yet delicately graduated series of colors marks the final Allegro. Winter, with its pearly dissonances, shrieks into F Minor with feverish gusto, wicked attacks and trills. We tread lightly on thin ice that palpably crackles, Szeryng speeding up and slowing down with blurring velocity. A delicious Largo takes us into a delirious final Allegro, the energy reminding us that Spring cannot be far behind. Szeryng announces his encore, sharing the spotlight with Garcia, the leader of the ECO. Together, they realize the ennobled joy in Vivaldi’s figures, his synthesis of harmony and invention.
— Gary Lemco