Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman Live = Duet works by LECLAIR; SPOHR; MOZART; WIENIAWSKI; PROKOFIEV; MOZART – Isaac Stern, violin/ Pinchas Zukerman, violin and viola – DOREMI DHR-8099 (5/31/21) (73:00) (complete listing below) [www.doremi.com] ****:
Recorded live at the Massey Hall, Toronto (9 February 1976), we hear both artists, former mentor and prodigy, actually, in fine form, especially considering Stern’s lackadaisical approach to practicing. The range of selections brings a strong sense of color, embracing the French School of Jean-Marie Leclair and the angular beauties in Serge Prokofiev. The speed and articulation in particular movements, such as in Mozart’s sparkling Rondeau for the G Major Duo, has an especial appeal, given its unusual, late modulation from E minor to G Minor. The two artists’ sense of closure at the finale of the respective pieces means – and succeeds – to bring the attending patrons to their collective feet. The suave grace of the Mozart pieces – origjnally conceived, first to rescue Michael Haydn from an importune commission from Archbishop Colloredo; and second, as showpieces for Mozart and his sister Nannerl, with Wolfgang on the viola – rival the best recorded work in this repertory by Joseph and Lillian Fuchs.
The two Etude-Caprices of Henri Wieniawski enjoy a pungent timbre, first setting a melodic line against jarring ostinato patterns in No. 1. The Etude-Caprice in E-flat tests legato vocalizing and double-stopped chords. The piece suddenly breaks out into fervent gypsy chords that calm down and lull us with their plastic interchange of shared harmonies. Few combinations for violin and viola compare in aggressive effect to the Allegro from Prokofiev’s neo-Classical 1932 Sonata, with its swirling chords in sharp, passing dissonance. But equally persuasive, the ensuing Commodo (quasi allegretto) that follows, in which Stern and Zukerman seem to reminisce serenely in major chord progressions. The concluding Allegro con brio brings us Prokofiev in fugal bliss, applying his idiosyncratic, even “symphonic,” Russian soul to Bach methods. The last pages feature some sweet application of high harmonics and glissandos. Some striking pizzicatos lead to a raucous but fervently convincing coda.
The genial duo plays two encores: the Giga from Leclair’s Sonata in A Major enjoys a healthy equality of parts, and Stern’s tone has been luminous this evening. The second encore, the Andante cantabile from the B-flat Major Mozart Duo No. 2, gives us a touching siciliano in 6/8 whose innate grace and charm, performed as it is by affectionate acolytes, makes a lasting impression. A bit of playful repartee in French precedes encore two.
LECLAIR: Sonata for 2 Violins in E Minor, Op. 3, No. 5
SPOHR: Duet for 2 Violins in D Major, Op. 67, No. 2
MOZART: Duo No. 1 in G Major for Violin and Viola. K. 423
WIENIAWSKI: Two Etude-Caprices for 2 Violins, Op. 18, Nos. 1 and 2
PROKOFIEV: Sonata for 2 Violins in C Major, Op. 56
LECLAIR: Sonata for 2 Violins in A Major, Op. 3, No. 4: Giga
MOZART: Duo No. 2 in B-flat Major for Violin and Viola, K. 424: Andante cantabile