S0025. MISCHA ELMAN, w.Paray Cond. Boston S.O.: Violin Concerto in D (Tschaikowsky), Live Performance 1 Dec., 1945, Symphony Hall; w.Mitropoulos Cond.: w.Mitropoulos Cond. NYPO: Concerto in e (Mendelssohn), Live Performance, 15 Nov., 1953, Carnegie Hall. Music & Arts 868. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 017685086823
“In terms of structure the Boston performance of the Tchaikovsky differs little from the Barbirolli 1929 traversal; the timings for the first movement are in fact almost identical though there are differences in matters of thematic emphasis, metrical displacements, vibrato usage and phrasal elasticity. This is still however, very recognisably, the master tonalist of old, one who imbued every phrase with lavish intensity and a throbbing, molten vivacity. He brings intense concentration and expressive shading to his opening rhetorical statement and the Elmanesque rubato that no-one could quite match. He is very slow and highly romanticised; the orchestral pizzicati that point the rhythm are delayed an age as a result. Elman lavishes prayerful simplicity after the cadenza and his voluptuous vibrato takes on an ever more devastating candour. Elman’s phrasing rises and falls, ever more rapturous and involved, his line taking on more and more a sense of direction, the orchestral string blending under Paray of real distinction. In the finale the orchestral accents are commensurately strong; this is the one movement where the excitement of a live performance impels Elman to a fleeter performance than his earlier commercial recording though oddly it’s not necessarily more overpoweringly exciting.
The Tchaikovsky is a reminder of Elman’s eminence; in the first decade of the century it was he who was the most fêted of young fiddlers and the Tchaikovsky was for a decade or more ‘his� concerto. The Mendelssohn dates from November 1953. His slightly earlier commercial recording with Defauw and the Chicago Symphony has always been highly regarded. Again Elman’s overall conception changed little and the difference in timings between Mitropoulos and Golschmann are negligible. Nevertheless against this one can cite the finger position changes that remind one of the old lion and the beautiful strands of lyrical weight he can and does lavish � even if the vibrato itself is now slowing and the tempos ossifying somewhat in terms of phrasal interconnectedness. In the Andante he no longer possesses the elfin projection or sense of relaxation that the greatest interpreters of this work bring to it (if indeed he ever really did � his recording with Defauw, though of course highly personalised, was highly impressive). He does rather distend the movement (to 7.50). He is jaunty and unmotoric in the finale; he never used it as a piece of showmanship as other, less scrupulous colleagues did.
As one who welcomes anything by Elman, no matter how minor, these major live performances have a still compelling part to play in expanding and widening the Elman discography; that they are ancillary to the main body of his recordings is undeniable but wise heads will want to hear them and reflect on Elman’s place in the hierarchy of great violinists.�
- Jonathan Woolf, musicwebinternational