Nathan Milstein in the TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto and assorted violin-piano works – Naxos Historical

by | Jun 27, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35; None but the Lonely Heart, Op. 6, No. 6; MENDELSSOHN: On Wings of Song; FOSTER: Old Folks at Home; SCHUBERT: Ave Maria; Serenade; FAURE: Apres un reve; POLDINI: Dancing Doll; GLAZOUNOV: Meditation in D, Op. 32; STRAVINSKY: Russian Maiden’s Song; WIENIAWWSKI: Mazurka in D, Op. 19, No. 2; BOEHM: Calm as the Night Nathan Milstein, violin/ Ezio Pinza, bass/ Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch (Tchaikovsky Concerto)/ RCA Victor Orchestra/ Arthur Fiedler/ Artur Balsam, piano (Glazounov, Stravinsky, Wieniawski)/ Gibner King, piano (Bohm, Tchaikovsky)

Naxos 8.111259 70:27 (Not Imported in the US) ****:

With this restoration of musical materials recorded by Nathan Milstein (1903-1992) between 1949-1953, we have on compact disc all of Milstein’s RCA legacy, barring an unissued recording of Beethoven’s Op. 23 Sonata with Artur Balsam. Milstein inscribed the Tchaikovsky Concerto four times, and that with Charles Munch ((29 March 1953) has remained the most elusive. Munch did record the piece commercially with Heifetz; and, having himself been an orchestral violinist, Munch has an excellent sense of pace and orchestral definition, quite capable of maintaining Milstein’s punishing tempos. Gorgeous intonation from Milstein, including the high flute tone and rasping, aggressive attacks in arco and spiccato passages. The first movement coda rumbles in high voltage, a miracle of furious collaboration. Much casts a filmy aura over the Canzonetta while Milstein weaves circles round him thrice. Flute and clarinet haunt the echoes of the violin’s trilled song. Acid, brisk attacks for the orchestral plucked notes in the Allegro vivacissimo, the cadences exploding with colors. Once Milstein sets the Russian dance going, the ensemble sizzles and snakes ribbons of melody out of the musical basket. Despite a few cuts in the score, the final pages burst with ardent bravura of the first order, a cascade of Russian ecstasies.

Harp, strings, and woodwinds from Arthur Fielder (19 January 1950) open the sequence of encore pieces–with On Wings of Song– that Milstein inscribed at Manhattan Center for RCA Victor LM 77. Each of the series of pieces Milstein cut with Fielder is unique to Milstein’s discography. The Foster (19 January 1950) has a guttural, slow drawl, maybe a hint of Roland Hayes’s conjuring sweet melancholy. The Poldini is a naïve salon piece, tinkling and waltzing effects. The Schubert and Faure items derive from sessions 17 January 1950. The Ave Maria casts a Hollywood haze on the proceedings; the Serenade exploits various registers and bowings from Milstein. Sweet melos, the Faure. The session with Artur Balsam (26 February 1949) open with Glazounov’s silky Meditation, a work Milstein would re-record with Robert Irving for EMI. A thin, nasal tone for Stravinsky’s song from Mavra. A rasping, pesant, thumping, rustic dance is the Wieniawski, the Dudziarz from Poland.

Last, a pair of songs from the legendary Italian basso, Ezio Pinza as they appeared on LM 170 (17 March 1952), singing in accented English with Milstein’s playing obligatto with Gibner King. In the Tchaikovsky song–made famous by the 1944 Hollywood film with Cary Grant–Milstein adds to the pathos with his own exalted “voice.” Congratulation to Naxos and to Mark Obert-Thorn on the completion of the Milstein series, a landmark series of reissues.

— Gary Lemco

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