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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Milstein first recorded the Tchaikovsky in Chicago in March 1940 with Frederick Stock, an underrated maestro. It is a more classical reading than his later versions, though the finale is remarkably dashing tour de force on the part of soloist and orchestra. The recording is also very fine, for at this time American Columbia had begun to record on to 33 1/3 rpm lacquer master discs. The recordings sound as well as 1950s early tape masters. This may nit be Milstein’s best account of the Tchaikovsky, but it has a lot going for it, and comes with two superb performances of the Bruch and Mendelssohn Concertos.

Derek Lim
The Flying Inkpot

"This amply filled disc would appear to be a bargain by any standards, and you certainly shouldn't pass up, at this price especially, the chance to be better acquainted with one of the violinists with the longest-lived careers of the twentieth century, Nathan Milstein (1903-1992).

Milstein said [the Bruch] was his favourite concerto, and one believes it, listening to this. There is a willingness to commit emotionally that I didn't feel in the Mendelssohn, and a sensitivity and vulnerability that comes through. The recorded violin sound is much more listenable and sweeter, catching more nuances. Milstein also takes the trouble to inflect more and play more with his tempi, so everything seems that much more human. John Barbirolli, returning to the orchestra that caused him so much pain years ago, leads them admirably in roaring form and with characteristic sympathy for the soloist in a performance full of colour.

Milstein's technique is at its formidable best in the Tchaikovsky, where he is abetted by Friedrich Stock and his Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the conductor in his last years as music director. There's no secret as to who's boss in this concerto. Milstein's performance is commanding and full of his own personal touches, dramatic and impressive in the first movement (no "Auer cadenza" here) and lyrical and beautiful in the second movement, missing none of the dark undertones here. Milstein was quite free when he wanted to be, and his tempi and fingerings were liable to change, as one will notice. Milstein takes the last movement, performed with the "standard" Auer cuts, at some points at such a tremendous clip that you wonder when he's going to slip up -- he never does, of course. The coda is really helter-skelter exciting, with the orchestra and soloist challenging each other as to who can go faster, and the run-up to the final chord is truly thrilling.

Mark Obert-Thorne's transfers are vivid and full of body."

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