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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jean Sibelius; Sergei Prokofiev; Alexander Glazunov - Violin Concertos (Jascha Heifetz)


Composer: Jean Sibelius; Sergei Prokofiev; Alexander Glazunov
  1. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: II. Adagio di molto
  3. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: III. Allegro ma non tanto
  4. Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63: I. Allegro moderato
  5. Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63: II. Andante assai
  6. Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63: III. Allegro ben marcato
  7. Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82: I. Moderato
  8. Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82: II. Andante sostenuto
  9. Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82: III. Tempo I
  10. Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82: IV. Allegro

Jascha Heifetz, violin
Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1-3)
Boston Symphony Orchestra (4-6)
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra (7-10)
Walter Hendl, conductor (1-3, 7-10)
Charles Münch, conductor (4-6)

Date: 1959 (1-6), 1963 (7-10)
Label: RCA



It made for instructive listening digging out my RCA Heifetz Great Concertos LP box set - blood red and starkly powerful of livery. All three of these concertos, and much else besides, were in that set. The most obvious improvement in terms of immediacy of sound between that much-loved set and this SACD incarnation comes in the Sibelius. What was amorphous has now become clear. The semi-audible introductory orchestral rustle of the erstwhile LP is now a vivid and organic sound, tremulous and expectant. The solo line also emerges with greater italicisation and curvature, without damage to the tone. Whilst details such as this are not as dramatic elsewhere there’s no mistaking the greater clarity and immediacy of the SACD. The performance needs no endorsement from me, though I don’t rank it higher than the earlier Beecham 78 set that Heifetz recorded in London, though it’s certainly swift. Nor, for that matter, is it as tensile as the Neveu, as aristocratic as the Francescatti or as powerfully humane as the Ignatius.

The Prokofiev is the hostage of some weird balances. I can’t think why the wind lines were as over recorded as they are here but they are obtrusive. Szigeti tended to hegemony of the First Concerto whilst Heifetz staked his claim to the Second (and I’m not aware that either played the other’s concerto). The inimitable "Heifetz slides" are here in profusion and a glamorous intensity of sound, though one that tends toward the linear; the slow movement is relatively fleet and though it relaxes with great subtlety I can never quite reconcile myself to Heifetz’s tempi. For me Oistrakh and Galliera are the pack leaders. The orchestral playing and sound are of course much preferable here than was the case in the earlier Heifetz recording with Koussevitzky.

Two of the greatest recordings of the Glazunov were made with the same orchestra – the RCA Victor. Milstein’s 1949 outing with Steinberg in 1949 is justly famed but I equally admire this Heifetz with Hendl fourteen years later, though the fires had begun to dip slightly and the tone was not quite as rapier brilliant as in his youth. This was reinforced by the LP transfer which seems to have been fractionally flat. The sound from the LP transfers I’ve heard has a heavier, less mobile sound and with a slower vibrato. It’s also RCA up front in sound. Here there’s a big difference. Re-pitching has made Heifetz’s tone lighter, more flexible and subtler; it also doesn’t dominate the aural perspective as it did, much to the advantage of the performance.

The original liner notes have been reproduced and the Living Stereo livery, which sports LP spines in the background, adds a welcome slice of living nostalgia to the enterprise. A stellar trio of recordings then; none at the very top, despite Heifetz’s sovereign playing, but all of an awe-inspiring level.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International

More reviews:


Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. His music contributed to the development of a feeling of national identity in Finland where he is now celebrated as the country's greatest composer. Sibelius is widely known for his seven symphonies, the violin concerto and the tone poems, especially Finlandia and the Karelia suite. Throughout his career, the composer found inspiration in nature and Nordic mythology. He almost completely stopped composing after 1920s and did not produce any large-scale works in his last thirty years.


Sergei Prokofiev (23 April, 1891–March 5, 1953) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor. As the creator of acknowledged masterpieces across numerous musical genres, he was one of the major composers of the 20th century. Prokofiev wrote 7 completed operas, 7 symphonies, 8 ballets, 5 piano concertos, 2 violin concertos, a cello concerto, and 9 completed piano sonatas, many of which are widely known and heard. Prokofiev also enjoyed personal and artistic support from a new generation of Russian performers, notably Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich.


Alexander Glazunov (10 August 1865 – 21 March 1936) was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor of the late Russian Romantic period. Glazunov was significant in that he successfully reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Russian music. While he was the direct successor to Balakirev's nationalism, he tended more towards Borodin's epic grandeur while absorbing a number of other influences. These included Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral virtuosity, Tchaikovsky's lyricism and Taneyev's contrapuntal skill.


Jascha Heifetz (February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1901 – December 10, 1987) was a violinist, widely considered to be one of the finest violinists of modern times. Born in Vilnius, Russian Empire (now Lithuania), he moved as a teenager to the United States, where he had a long and successful performing and recording career. His near-perfect technique is regarded by many critics as unequaled and caused some critics to accuse him of being overly mechanical, even cold. Heifetz owned the 1714 Dolphin Stradivarius, the 1731 "Piel" Stradivarius, the 1736 Carlo Tononi, and the 1742 ex David Guarneri del Gesù.


FLAC, tracks
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  2. Oh my God, thanks so much for this! I've been looking for a free download of this free recording!

  3. Deutsche Welle: Dokumentation

    Der Geiger Jascha Heifetz - Das Gesicht der Perfektion (english original God's Fiddler: Jascha Heifetz)

    Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), geboren in Vilnius im russischen Kaiserreich und 1917 nach Amerika ausgewandert, war zweifellos einer der größten und einflussreichsten Geigenvirtuosen seit Niccolò Paganini und der erste moderne Geiger seiner Zeit. Er begann als musikalisches Wunderkind, galt schon als 20-Jähriger als der beste Geiger der Welt und setzte mit seinen zahlreichen Schallplattenaufnahmen Maßstäbe für ein ganzes Jahrhundert. Der Film porträtiert einen Künstler, der sein Instrument mit unübertroffener Präzision beherrschte, und einen Menschen, für den nur das Perfekte ausreichend war.

    Es ist nicht übertrieben, Jascha Heifetz als den größten Violinvirtuosen seit Paganini zu bezeichnen. Peter Rosen zeigt in seinem Film historische Aufnahmen von Heifetz, aus denen ersichtlich ist, dass er der erste moderne Geiger seiner Zeit war. Itzhak Perlman äußerte sich wie folgt: "Als ich ihn sprach, dachte ich, ich glaube es nicht, ich spreche mit Gott."

    Der Film porträtiert einen Künstler, für den nur die Perfektion ausreichend war. Ein musikalisches Wunderkind, das Maßstäbe für fast ein Jahrhundert setzen sollte.

    Über private Filmaufnahmen und Familienfotos aus den Jahren 1903 bis 1987 können wir einen angesehenen Konzertgeiger erleben, der auch in der populären Kultur bekannt war. Sein Name war ein Synonym für Größe für jedermann - von Jack Benny bis zu den Muppets und Woody Allen.

    Die großen Geiger seiner Generation und viele seiner ehemaligen Schüler, die noch am Leben sind, sprechen über den legendären aber mysteriösen Menschen Heifetz und die doppelte Natur des künstlerischen Genies: das Paradox, wie ein sterblicher Mensch mit unsterblichen Talenten leben kann, Talenten, die er nutzen muss, die aber einen hohen Preis fordern. Sind der Mensch und der Künstler ein und dieselbe Person? Welchen Preis müssen Künstler und Mensch zahlen? Wer ist der Mensch hinter der Musik?


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