Sunday, 21 March 2004

This was Mischa Elman weekend (plus Jamieson Whisky, moules marinière and good Tetbury steak). The eight CDs from Testament arrived, comprising all the Decca recordings 1954-56 that have been unavailable for so long. This also enabled me to tidy up my Elman collection, and amalgamate a few old CDs -- as well as throw out a few Ace of Clubs and Ace of Diamond LPs.
I was surprised to like Elman in the two Mozart concertos, as well as in the Beethoven. Whatever: the man was inimitable and one of the 4-5 great violinists of the twentieth century. The Elman sound is completely unique. Sad that he was soon deemed "unfashionable" and condemned to linger unheard except by a few violin-loving fanatics. Anyway, this weekend I shall have had around six hours of Elman listening, and feel better for it. There are not many violinists who could keep me interested for six hours in one weekend!

Tuesday, 16 March 2004

Back to Vasa Prihoda, with a recital of musical snippets in 1958 (Turin). Paganini, Hubay, Dvorak, etc. He really was an extremely proficient player and a truly formidable technician. Strange how people such as Ruggiero Ricci received the acclaim and the recording contracts back in the 1940s and 50s, rather than Prihoda (who was miles in advance of Ricci, technically).

Also bought the new Sarah Chang recording (with Lars Vogt). She plays the first Saint-Saens sonata, the Ravel sonata, and the Franck sonata. The recording is a problem, with a high dynamic range. A bit like Flesch's description of Hubermann: "He either shouts, or he whispers". Well, as recorded here, the duo blow you out of the room at climaxes; if the volume is turned down, the many admirable pianissimi become well-nigh inaudible.

Over all, the combination of German and American doesn't sound too much at home in this recital of very French music. The Saint-Saens, in particular, sounds ill-digested (almost as if it is being -- very well -- sight-read at times). I have always admired Sarah Chang, but think she is more attuned to Romantic music than to this French period. Not surprisingly, the Franck sonata probably comes off best. This is not an encouraging CD, and I shall no longer buy Sarah Chang automatically.

Thursday, 11 March 2004

After Ronald de Haas had described Vasa Prihoda as "the greatest violinist per se" I returned to my one Prihoda CD. And, yes, he was a phenomenal violinist, even heard in the Biddulph acoustic transfers of Paganini, Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski. Strange how good violinists such as Stern, Bell, et al become household names, whilst far superior ones -- such as Prihoda -- are known only to a handful of connoisseurs. Somewhat depressing. At any rate, I shall become an assiduous collector of Prihoda recordings. Yet another rising violinist whose career was blighted by the 1939-47 interruption to most musical careers in Europe.