Oscar Shumsky = BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2; TELEMANN: Fantasia for Violin Solo in D; BACH: Violin Sonata in E: Adagio; Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004; Arias from Cantatas Nos. 120 and 132; BUXTEHUDE: Cantata “Jubilate Domino:; TARTINI (arr. Kreisler): Violin Sonata in G Minor “Devil’s Trill”; RACHMANINOFF: “Daisies,” Op. 38, No. 3; Four Songs for Tenor and Violin Obbligato; MOZART: Adagio in E Major, K. 261; “L’amero, saro costante” from Il Re Pastore, K. 208; HINDEMITH: Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 11, No. 2; SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B Minor, D. 895; R. STRAUSS: Dance from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60; Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18; KREISLER: Scherzo-caprice, Op. 6; Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta; WIENIAWSKI: Polonaise brillante in A, Op. 21; Polonaise brillante in D, Op. 4; SAINT-SAENS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28; SCHUMANN: “Traumerei” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15 – Oscar Shumsky, violin/ Nadia Reisenberg, Earl Wild, Leo Barkin, Frank Maus, piano/ Maureen Forrester, alto/ Lois Marshall, sop./ Bach Aria Group/ James Melton, tenor/ Carroll Hollister, p./ Erna Berger, sop./ George Schick & Mario Bernardi, p./ NBC Sym. Orch./ Milton Katims/ Al Goodman Orch./ CBC Orch. – Doremi DHR-8031-3 (3 CDs) 79:00, 69:04, 78:15 [Distr. by Allegro] *****:
Oscar Shumsky (1917-2000) came to be regarded as among the most outstanding and distinguished of violin virtuosos, a performer of innate dignity and solid craftsmanship. Shumsky openly admired Fritz Kreisler, who predicted a great future for the lad who had memorized an unpublished Kreisler cadenza to the Beethoven Concerto. Having studied with both Leopold Auer and Efrem Zimbalist, Shumsky joined Toscanini and the NBC Symphony. After his membership in the Primrose String Quartet, Shumsky cofounded in 1959 the Stratford Festival in Canada, with Glenn Gould and Leonard Rose. Shumsky’s work at the Curtis Institute gleaned many outstanding pupils, including Eugene Drucker, who credited Shumsky’s “continual quest for musical substance rather than surface gesture.”
If I may add a personal element, Oscar Shumsky and I spoke in 1990, after I had discovered in Atlanta a set of 78s of Rachmaninoff songs (1949) with James Melton, Carroll Hollister and Shumsky, an inscription that had eluded him. When I provided Shumsky a cassette transfer, he rewarded me with a cassette of a test-pressing of the Brahms B-flat Quartet, Op. 67 with the Primrose Quartet. So many of the individual performances stand out, selecting those of particular distinction becomes a matter of random necessity: the 28 November 1951 Mozart Adagio in E with Leo Barkin exudes the same ravishing delicacy and poise we find in Milstein’s rendition, but here totally Viennese in expression. A splendid Bach Partita in D Minor (1965) from Basel concludes with a monumental reading of the Chaconne. Shumsky and Mario Bernardi collaborate suavely in 1965 for Hindemith’s lyric but more often declamatory Sonata in D. The recital from the CBC (28 November 1951), opening as it does with Bach and Tartini, bodes well for seamless elegance of line as representative of Shumsky’s trump card. Those who savor the Heifetz rendition of the Richard Strauss Violin Sonata may find points of virtuosic comparison in that by Shumsky (24 October 1982) with Frank Maus. The 1715 “ex-Rode” Stradivarius Shumsky plays certainly enriches the quality of the music he interprets. Listen to the steely line he projects in the Tartini “Devil’s Trill” from the CBC concert, 1951.
The rarities in this fine collation certainly attract me as a collector and broadcaster of the unusual: Shumsky’s Telemann Fantasia No. 10 in D from a WQXR-FM session at “The Listening Room” with Bob Sherman (3 January 1972). The elusive 1962 Desto LPs now transferred for their Bach treasures with the Bach Aria Group. The Buxtehude Cantata from the Stratford Festival (26 July 1967) with Maureen Forrester. For Shumsky inflammatus, try both his Wieniawski Polonaises for riveting bravura that mounts one spectacular effect atop another. The No. 1 has the benefit of Earl Wild at the keyboard (15 August 1940). The spicy Dance from the Richard Strauss has all the impish, Viennese grace we know from Willi Boskovsky, only here Shumsky leads the CBC Orchestra directly from his violin in 1965. And, besides listening to the exquisite soprano Erna Berger in Mozart from 1950 RCA 78s, we have that aforementioned experience of James Melton in four touching Rachmaninoff songs: “In the Silence of the Night”; “To the Children”; “O cease thy singing, maiden fair”; and “The Cherry Tree.” For last Heifetz comparison, savor Shumsky in the perennial Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso from Saint-Saens (22 April 1950), with the NBC Symphony under the studied direction of erstwhile violist Milton Katims.
This remains a remarkable set, a varied and relentlessly distinctive testament to a fascinating, directly communicative violin talent of the first rank.