Huberman: Complete BACH and MOZART Recordings = BACH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major; MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major – Bronislaw Huberman, v./ Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Issay Dobrowen/ NY Philharmonic/ Bruno Walter (K. 218) – Pristine Audio

by | Nov 19, 2013 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Huberman: Complete BACH and MOZART Recordings = BACH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042; MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218 – Bronislaw Huberman, violin/ Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Issay Dobrowen/ New York Philharmonic/ Bruno Walter (K. 218)Pristine Audio PASC 397, 76:12 [avail. in various formats at] ****:

Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947) was one of the towering figures among violinists of his generation. Yet despite lavish praise from Furtwaengler, Toscanini, Walter, Dobrowen, Barbirolli, and other major conductors and artists, he remained a controversial artist throughout his career, owing to his highly individual style of interpretation and to a technique that, while not weak or unimpressive, lacked the consistency in difficult passages of the finest virtuosos. The tone color Huberman produced via his Gibson Stradivarius earned him significant renown, along with his expressive flexibility and naturally fluent line. Both producers Mark Obert-Thorn and Andrew Rose have collaborated on this Pristine project to resuscitate Huberman’s Bach and Mozart inscriptions made, respectively, 1934 and 1945.

The Bach and Mozart concerts derive from a two-day session in Vienna (13-14 June 1934) with Huberman and Russian conductor-colorist Issay Dobrowen (1891-1953), each vivacious and idiosyncratically charming, even viscerally exciting. Huberman’s raspy, driven approach generates a suave, romantic appeal in Bach superior in nervous energy than the over-refined Heifetz in the two concertos. Given to slight portamentos and exaggerated rhythmic license, Huberman manages to make music where some reduce Bach to effective geometry. The Andante of the A Minor Concerto conveys a decided personal intimacy, the Bach affect drawn to a fine silken filament. A rustic dance in rich colors, the Allegro assai allows Huberman to display a combination of “gypsy” wit and poise in his spirited rendition. The E Major Concerto emanates an unexpected weight and drama in its opening movement, Huberman and Dobrowen alert to each other in small phrase groups. A highly personal meditation, the Adagio features Huberman’s weeping tone and gratifying trill. A feisty confidence invests the last movement, Allegro assai, its step-wise motion and cantering phrases finding engaged sympathy in both principals.

An immediate rush of sound marks Dobrowen’s yeasty introduction to the Mozart 1775 G Major Concerto, its lovely balance of seamless, virtuosic display and thematic symmetry – Mozart’s having used it in Il re pastore – obviously attractive to Huberman as well. Huberman’s ingratiating tone, mixed with the “commentary” by the oboes, proves irresistible. Huberman’s cadenza (unidentified, but likely his own) certainly wanders into some curious regions, hurtling forward into the tutti with unabashed brio. The lovely Adagio in muted strings provides a halo of sound for Huberman’s exalted, long-spun melody, ravishing in its utter simplicity of design. The Rondo delights in surprises, set in two major dance groups, one rollicking and unbuttoned, the second a dignified gavotte that interrupts the rustic gaiety. Huberman responds with his customary wit and gracious charm, intruding once more with a cadenza off the deep end. The return to the main theme evinces that unabashed elan of which both principals seem to have an endless supply.

The Mozart D Major Concerto performance (16 December 1945) on Beethoven’s birthday from Carnegie Hall I knew previously from an LP issued by the Bruno Walter Society, coupled with Huberman’s playing of the Bach Chaconne. The performance enjoys a nervous excitement lacking in Walter’s commercial reading for CBS with Francescatti. Happily, many of the sonic annoyances of the original broadcast Andrew Rose has eliminated. Huberman’s habit of detaching transition passages may seem eccentric, but they do keep our ears attuned. The reading as a whole communicates great warmth and generous personality. Huberman’s double-stopping in his first movement cadenza supplies a symphonic sound, and its big pedal point builds a huge arch for Walter’s orchestra to enter for the coda. The tempo in the Andante cantabile proves a bit slow – only Talich to my mind ever gets it quite right – but the melos shines in spite of some defective sonics. Typical of Huberman, his second movement cadenza takes us on an interplanetary ride. In true ‘galant’ style, the concluding Rondeau projects wit and courtesy at once. Some degree of tape deterioration has persisted, but the genial and often frisky interplay of the principals lives forever. [Paper or plastic tape, in 1945, in the U.S.? I don’t think so…Ed.]

—Gary Lemco

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