As in DGG’s recent 5-CD boxed set of Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s (mostly) 1950s recordings in the yellow label’s Original Masters series, this new release from the upscale Japanese Opus KURA label shows how great musical results can be obtained with entirely noble and straightforward means. It’s the difference between an Oistrakh and a Heifetz.
Of course, however you do it requires a virtuoso’s technique and that Schneiderhan, despite his exceptionally relaxed approach to music making, had technique in gobs. His ability to float a phrase high in the lyrical stratosphere is quite extraordinary, as is his command, poise and intonation in fiendishly difficult fast passages. At the age of 22, Schneiderhan gave a reading of the Brahms that is the equal, for excitement and majesty, of that of any of his more famous colleagues, and his Bach Chaconne, recorded for Columbia in 1947, is the stuff of which legends are made (surprisingly, he made only one other studio recording of the Bach solo violin music, the second Partita for DGG.
The first movement cadenza, by Schneiderhan’s teacher Julius Winkler, is the same as that the soloist used in his 1953 recording for DGG, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Paul van Kempen. Mr. Itakura, who wrote the liner notes (in Japanese only, unfortunately, with a brief English summary) does not understand why Schneiderhan chose Winkler. Considering that, at the time, the usual cadenzas by Kreisler and Joachim were likely rejected by Nazis, perhaps he chose his teacher’s cadenza as a subtle protest.
The sound is exceptionally good: clean and with few distractions, allowing the musical power of these performances to come through with great intensity. Keep your eye on this label. It’s a good one!
– Laurence Vittes