Jascha Heifetz: The Legendary Los Angeles Concerts = BRAHMS: Double Concerto in a minor, OP. 102; HALVORSEN: Passacaglia for Violin and Cello from Suite in g minor by Handel; BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; DVORAK: Humoresque in G-flat Major, Op. 101, No. 7; SARASATE: Habanera, Op. 21, No. 2 – Jascha Heifetz, violin/ Gregor Piatagorsky, cello/ New York Philharmonic Orchestra/ Leonard Bernstein (Brahms)/ Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ Zubin Mehta (Beethoven)/ Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/ Donald Vorhees – Rhine Classics RH-004 (2 CDs) 38:47; 50:08 [www.rhineclassics.com] *****:
Jascha Heifetz performances previously unreleased emerge on a new, important label in excellent sound.
Violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) still stands as the artistic ideal for the many admirers of his craft: Isaac Stern once referred to the Twentieth Century as “the age of Heifetz.” The soul of sang froid on the concert stage, Heifetz turned his potent emotionalism inward: his burnished tone, elastic bow technique, and unerring finger technique virtually revolutionized the modern concept of the violin art. Cavils often arose to Heifetz’ s application of bow pressure; and his phrasing, so smoothly articulated, could warrant the reaction of “glibness” or “over-refined” to his interpretations. But for the combination of rhythmic vehemence and focused passion, few could compete with the dazzling, seamless readings of Heifetz. When I asked Yehudi Menuhin why he had been so reluctant to commit the Tchaikovsky Concerto to recordings, he immediately quipped, “I had always felt this work belonged to Heifetz, and I could add little to its realization.”
The live broadcasts offered here through the efforts of Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer Emilio Pessina derive from radio master and unreleased reel-to-reel audio tapes from both the Hollywood Bowl (1 September 1963) and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (6 December 1964). Pessina has maintained the audience response, and so the sheer level of excitement remains undeniable, especially after the Brahms Double Concerto with Piatagorsky and Bernstein; after which frenzy Heifetz announces the Halvorsen work which he and Piatagorsky then perform as an encore—and subsequently recorded for RCA. The two short pieces from the Bell Telephone Hour (7 February 1950) derive from live broadcast tapes from Studio 6-A, NBC Radio City, New York.
The performances themselves, while led by two thoroughly independent musical minds – Bernstein and Mehta — still feel directed by the Heifetz penchant for speed and minimal, romantic rhetoric. The Brahms does reveal a more energetic style and pace, perhaps the influence of Bernstein before his Brahms became almost hysterically inflated later, in Vienna. We should not discount the musical influence of the passionate Russian cello virtuoso Piatagorsky. Moreover, the Halvorsen duo (1893) really sets the Hollywood Bowl on fire, with the last pages of a basically staid, Baroque form from Handel literally sizzling before our ears. Heifetz arranged the Dvorak Humoresque for violin and piano in 1937. Its simple, folk style has elegance and class. The more visceral Sarasate piece has never had performers equal what Bustabo and Ricci could find in these gypsy gems, but Heifetz sheds some of his tight-lipped sophistication for several pungent, raspy jolts and gestures. The Beethoven Concerto sports the Heifetz — by way of Leopold Auer and Joseph Joachim — cadenzas, relatively terse but effectively knotty. The rendition sails by so fast that the drama — but not the epic lyricism — suffers, but we gape at the long, fluid lines that proportionally balance each other at every turn. Collectors now have Heifetz in the Beethoven led by a powerful assembly of conductors: Munch, Mitropoulos, Toscanini, et al., and I feel little emotional distinction among them. But if you seek a consistent, committed vision that proffers technical perfection, then you will seek yet another Heifetz performance.
This Rhine Classics label promises to rank high in the pantheon of historic reissues.