Joseph Szigeti: The European Columbia Recordings, Vol. 2 – Pristine Audio

by | May 21, 2022 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Joseph Szigeti: the European Columbia Recordings, Vol. 2 = Works by BEETHOVEN, SCHUBERT, WEBER, PAGANINI – Joseph Szigeti, violin/ British Symphony Orchestra/ Bruno Walter/ Kurt Ruhrseitz, piano1/ Nikita Magaloff, piano2 – Pristine Audio PASC 660  74:23 [] ****:

Producer and Restoration Engineer Mark Obert-Thorn extends his revival of Hungarian virtuoso Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973), whose musicianship often elicited the lauds “aristocratic” and “intellectual” in response to his old-world approach to the repertory, sporting a piercing, nasal intonation that did not lack for passionate authority.  Szigeti inherited the pedagogy of the Romantic Belgian tradition that had given rise to Henri Vieuxtemps and its most prestigious Hungarian exemplar, Jenö Hubay, who admitted the relatively deficient youngster into his class. Later, the guiding influence of composer-pedagogue Ferruccio Busoni would steer Szigeti to the heights, both classical and experimental, that marked his especial musical persona. The British Columbias here restored embrace the years 1926-1936 and include the first of  three recordings of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, this from 14 April 1932 with Bruno Walter.  

The collaboration between Szigeti and Walter proves a broadly incisive reading from all parties, driven and even luxurious in tis expressivity. Each participant exploits selective accelerandi to intensify the musical periods that define the large canvas of the first movement Allegro ma non troppo. Given the cat-gutty resonance of Szigeti’s instrument, his capacity to deliver a soothing legato can astonish in tis purity. Szigeti often bows close to the bridge, and the effect can be scratchy in spiccatos, and he always maintained a bow arm near his torso, which could limit his range of motion. Still, the sympathy between Szigeti and Walter becomes immensely palpable, grand and intimate, as required. 

After a thundering, blistering first movement cadenza – impetuous in a manner to rival that of Adolf Busch – Szigeti’s soft entry into the Larghetto movement completely disarms us in its studied lyricism. The fluted lines and spun-out trills create a glowing effect, with minimum vibrato, underlined by Walter’s haunted, rounded phrases in strings, winds, and horns. What we witness in this Larghetto evolves as a moment of spiritual repose only acquired by a consummate musical sense of aesthetic balance.  Both Szigeti and Walter engage the Rondo: Allegro with a muscular energy and driven focus to generate excitement in long-familiar territory. The dialogue between Szigeti and orchestra’s bassoon warrants the price of admission in pounds sterling. Walter, too, sheds much of his gemütlich image to indulge the often Dionysiac rhythmic impulses in this grand work.

The remainder of the program consists of salon repertory, for want of a better term, although to hear Szigeti in unaccompanied Paganini (the B Minor and E Major Caprices) would not come again on records. The Allegro vivace from the G Major Sonata with Ruhrseitz (30 June 1927) throws more than sparks; it sizzles, basking in a witty virility.  With future son-in-law Nikita Magaloff we have a cannily negotiated rendition of Carl Friedberg’s arrangement (31 May 1933) of Schubert’s last movement of the D Major Sonata (old Op. 53). Szigeti and Magaloff approach the modest Weber Sonata No. 3 (6 March 1936) in a style that might well have defined the Biedermeier sensibility of newly-acquired taste among amateur music-makers. Szigeti adds more than a dash of Hungarian paprika to the second movement Rondo: Presto, and Magaloff catches the infectious fire himself. 

The Paganini entries testify to a consummate technique active in Szigeti’s maneuvering of various bravura effects, like the trills in rapid harmony of the B Minor. The so-called “La chasse” Caprice in E indulges in various, rapid alterations and harmonics, not for the faint-of-hands.  The first of the Ferdinand David arrangements with keyboard of the A Minor Caprice (rec. 21 September 1926) Szigeti cut for two 10” shellacs, so the abridgement. The later (rec. 7 June 1928) rendition, for a 12” disc, gives almost two added minutes of refined bravura, sometimes violent in its alternately throaty or thinly-drawn melodic arch as the variations each make their own demands. For the Szigeti admirer and collector, this set quickly asserts its essential value.

—Gary Lemco

Joseph Szigeti: the European Columbia Recordings, Vol. 2 =

Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; Minuet in G (arr. Burmeister)1;
Allegro vivace from Violin Sonata No. 8 in G, Op. 30, No. 31;

SCHUBERT (arr. Friedberg)2:
Rondo from Piano Sonata No. 17 in D, D. 8502;

WEBER (arr. Szigeti):
Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op. 10, No. 32;

Caprice in B Minor, Op. 1, No. 2;
Caprice in E Major, Op. 1, No. 9;
Caprice in A Minor, Op. 1, No. 241 (two recordings)

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Album Cover for Szigeti European Columbia Recordings Vol 2




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