Johanna Martzy = BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major (last two movements only); MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor – Johanna Martzy, violin/ Jean Antonietti, piano/ Bavarian Radio Orch./Eugen Jochum – Tahra

by | Nov 26, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Johanna Martzy = BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op.
108; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 (last two movements
only); MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 – Johanna
Martzy, violin/ Jean Antonietti, piano/ Bavarian Radio Orchestra/Eugen
Jochum NWDR Symphony Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (Mendelssohn)

Tahra TAH 553,  66:19 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi) ****:

Roumanian violinist Johanna Martzy (1924-1979) maintains a cult status
among connoisseurs and record collectors. Her main teachers were Hubay,
Vecsey, Szigeti, and Telmanyi. Like her contemporary Guila Bustabo,
Martzy’s international career took off when at age 19 she performed the
Tchaikovsky Concerto (1943) under Willem Mengelberg in occupied
Budapest. Her post-war fame accelerated with a 1953 appearance in
England, then a 1957 debut at the New York Philharmonic under Cluytens.
A year later, she played Mendelssohn with Leonard Bernstein.
Unfortunately, in 1955, Martzy’s anti-communist sympathies led to an
incident involving the Czech Philharmonic, members of which falsely
accused her of supporting the fascist Horthy regime. By the time her
career rejuvenated, she had contracted hepatitis, then cancer. Her
tragically brief life ended just short of her fifty-fifth birthday.

The CD medium has been slow to reissue Martzy’s work: the Testament SBT
1037 of the Brahms and Mendelssohn concertos with Kletzki(1954-1955)
remains the major issue. Doremi (DHR 7753) has one volume dedicated to
Marty, a 1960 recital from Montreal with pianist Leon Pommers. The
elusive CD is an issue on Con Moto of the rare DGG LP (629 906 ), the
1966 Eppstein Concert with Ludwig Kaufmann and Enrico Mainardi. The
Tahra issue of unissued performances begins with the D Minor Sonata of
Brahms (22 October 53) from a Frankfurt studio – a highly studied,
mellow account much in the Szigeti tradition, with fast vibrato and
subtle shifts in accents and rubato at the phrase ends. The rather dry
acoustic gobbles up the reverberation, but the rapport between the two
musicians is palpable, especially in the wonderful long-held phrases at
the end of the Allegro. We can attribute the fine tone of the
instrument to its being Huberman’s Stradivarius. Flexibility and high
espessivity mark the Adagio. The “sweet dalliance” of the Un poco
presto squeezes precious juice from the moment. A galloping passion
seizes the Presto agitato, then Martzy imposes a more severe classical
line on the proceedings. Pianist Antonietti is not to be denied,
however, and his energy communicates to and proves infectious of
Martzy’s driven acceleration to a stirring, heroic peroration.

Martzy’s collaboration with eminent Brahmsian Eugen Jochum (14 December
1951) rests on the same lofty plain as the Menuhin/Furwaengler and
Renardy/Munch inscriptions from around the same period. We can only
speculate as to the first movement; but the Adagio is cut from pliant
oak, thoroughly luxuriating in the melos of the short phrase and the
interplay of the winds and horn with the violin. If the melting Adagio
indulges itself, then the gypsy Rondo: Allegro giocoso ma non troppo
vivace unleashes the tigress, even tearing into scale passages with
fury. Listen to the tympani segue into Martzy’s reentry just before the
middle section!  Jochum has totally caught fire, and lest the
Bavarians incinerate, Martzy wheels into her brief cadenza with
pizzicato, the trills, and then marches not to the scaffold but to
transcendence. The Mendelssohn from Hamburg (1 January 1954) is
implosive, with Martzy’s taking phrases a bit more marcato than some
violinists wont. The long line is there, a highly burnished, pointed
arch. Martzy’s rasping, digging tone resonates with the Bustabo mania,
and Isserstedt gives Martzy plenty of breathing room. The cadenza is
sheer bravura cross-fertilized by Bach, much in the Ferras caliber of
exquisite intonation. Martzy’s oboe and flute tone for the Andante
warrant Schmidt-Isserstedt’s exquisite subito throughout her exposition
of the wonderful song of this movement, until his own brief tutti.
Despite her attempt to make the opening of the Allegretto profound,
Martzy can do little to deepen the impression of this movement, so it
persists a fiddler’s exercise in elfin gymnastics. You cognoscenti, hie
thee to the www.tahra.com website with all due speed.

–Gary Lemco

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