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David Radcliffe
American Record Guide, September 2011

This is a thoroughly happy collection: the compositions sort well together…the 1950s recorded sound is splendid, and the liner note is by Tully Potter.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

BBC Music Magazine, July 2011


Heifetz’a Walton Violin Concerto under the composer’s baton (1950) may be the best the work has ever had. Unmissable.

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, May 2011

It’s hardly surprising that the Naxos Historical Great Violinists series already contains several Jascha Heifetz recordings, including his 1949 recording of the original score of the Walton Violin Concerto, coupled with his 1941 version of the Elgar Violin Concerto on 8.110939. Now we have his 1950 recording of the revised version of the Walton, in re-mastered sound as bright as a button and coupled with three other recordings from the early LP era. The back cover of the CD refers to Heifetz’s polished elegance, but there’s more to it than that. Some of Paganini’s contemporaries thought that he’d sold his soul to the Devil to obtain such mastery of the violin: they might well have thought the same of Heifetz, when everything here seems grist to his mill.

The Walton concerto was composed for Heifetz and, while it’s good also to have more recent versions, notably from Nigel Kennedy, with the Viola Concerto (not currently available?), Kurt Nikkanen, and Naxos’s own digital recording with Dong Suk-Kang, a splendid bargain coupled with the Cello Concerto, Heifetz still reigns supreme, with Walton and the Philharmonia providing excellent support and Mark Obert-Thorn excelling himself with a transfer which makes the recording sound almost as if it were made yesterday. Even the limitations of mono hardly seem to matter.

After the Walton, the Saint-Saëns Havanaise inevitably sounds somewhat trite. Naxos have chosen to present these recordings in the chronological order of their setting down, but I could have wished the Walton to have been left until last. Nevertheless, it’s churlish to complain when Heifetz weaves his magic here, too, ably abetted by the RCA Orchestra and William Steinberg.

The Sinding Suite is more substantial and it, too, receives a performance that makes me wonder why we don’t hear this work as often as the composer’s Violin Concerto. This recording is rightly regarded as a Heifetz special.

The final work, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s ‘Prophets’ Concerto was also composed for Heifetz. As the notes observe, though it pre-dates his time in Hollywood, it does have a Technicolor quality not unlike Respighi or Korngold. Once more the music presents no problems for Heifetz and the LAPO under Wallenstein. Beecham used to have the knack of making good second-rate music sound first-rate and that’s exactly what all concerned do here.

I’ve already praised the quality of the Walton transfer but the whole of the rest of the programme has received equally fine re-mastering. I’ve heard some fine transfers recently from Beulah and High Definition Tape Transfers, but nothing to excel what I hear on this CD. There were just a few moments in the Castelnuovo-Tedesco when I felt that the treble needed to be tamed a little, but it’s not a serious problem.

Naxos already have the superb 1955 Heifetz/Reiner recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto in their download-only series (9.80081). Perhaps they would consider adding that to the Great Violinists series. For my money, Heifetz is the exponent of the Brahms, taking the opening movement at the only speed that makes sense unless you want to have a work with two slow movements.

This fine tribute to Jascha Heifetz is not available in the USA and in several other countries, for copyright reasons.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2011

William Walton composed the Violin Concerto at the invitation of Jascha Heifetz, their subsequent recording, with Walton conducting, having gained a legendary status. This was to be the great violinist’s second recording, the war years placing his first recording on the other side of the Atlantic. In the meantime Walton had made changes to the score so that the two are musically different and can stand side by side as a vital part of any Walton collection. Maybe Heifetz brought an American gloss to the solo part that remained even in this London recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and subsequent recordings by others have delved much further below the surface of the score. Yet the sheer brilliance of his playing—particularly in the second movement, which he takes at a whirlwind tempo—has never been surpassed. Not only is it the dexterity of his left hand, but the control of his bow that is remarkable in creating effects. If I admire this virtuosity, he could also be tempted to take it to extremes as in the crazily fast opening Presto of Sinding’s Suite, while remaining only just on the right side of good taste in his vibrant account of Saint-Saens’ Havanaise. The disc, however, is also important by virtue of the seldom heard Second Concerto of Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a work that Heifetz ‘liked very much’. Though it predated the Italian composer’s time working in Hollywood, his style of writing was already moving towards it. Creamy glowing melodies, some moments of bravura and a highly effective accompaniment, it is an easily likeable score. None of the recordings, dating between 1950 and 1954, were outstanding, the mono sound lacking inner orchestral clarity, the earliest—the Walton—being the most detailed. Mark Obert-Thorn has offered the best transfer I have heard.

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