Szigeti columbia v3 PASC682

Joseph Szigeti (violin)
The European Columbia Recordings, Volume 3
rec. 1926-46

The third volume in this series opens with a piece excluded, for contractual reasons, from Sony’s recent Szigeti box, Berlioz’s Reverie and Caprice, recorded in Abbey Road Studios with Constant Lambert conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Often overlooked in Szigeti’s discography, and consequently a little difficult to track down, it’s an evocative piece, and graced by Szigeti’s very particular tonal resources. Ideally, I suppose, you’d want the recordings made by the Franco-Belgian duo of Grumiaux or Dumay to keep this historic Szigeti disc company.

The Mendelssohn and Brahms Concertos have been multiply reissued over the years so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and suggest instead that you read my review of the Naxos transfers, which were also by Mark Obert-Thorn, if you’re interested – see review. To simplify things, I have always much preferred the Brahms, for all the orchestra’s idiosyncrasies, to the Mendelssohn, even though this last work is conducted by Beecham.

The second CD offers a miscellany of small-scaled pieces, once past the superbly played Brahms Sonata, Op.108 with Egon Petri recorded in 1937. Obert-Thorn’s transfer is more forward than the much older 1989 transfer made for Biddulph by Ward Marston, and so brings Petri forward in the balance with less audible surface noise. It also sounds brighter in this transfer, which is all to the good. This release also includes the decade-earlier recording of the slow movement from the sonata that Szigeti recorded with Kurt Ruhrseitz, which was used as the filler for the Brahms Concerto with Harty. It also includes both recordings of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance in E Minor, Op. 72/2, recorded two years apart and – as was Columbia’s occasional want – released under the same catalogue number. The 1926 version is attractive but the 1928 replacement is textually fuller; this is the first time they’ve both been reissued together. 

Hubay’s Zephyr is heard in a rather ‘surfacey’ Columbia; I suspect this was one of the rarer sides to track down or maybe there was only one copy from which to work. Szigeti was very popular in Japan and in this twofer we find a few smaller pieces from his arsenal of encores – namely Hubay’s Maros vize, Scenes from the Czardas No.3 (on two sides) and Falla’s Danza española No. 1 from La vida breve. No, his Rimskian Bumblebee is not Milstein’s equal but whose is? Loeffler’s transcription of Chabrier’s Scherzo-valse is delightful and delightfully played too.

Very shortly after Elgar died Szigeti transcribed, and he and Nikita Magaloff recorded, a brace of commemorative little pieces – Adieu and Serenade. Adieu starts with a quotation from the Violin Concerto, not inappropriately. The final items in this attractive twofer are all by Kreisler. I don’t particularly associate Szigeti with Kreisler, other than performing his arrangements and adaptations. I’ve seen a reference to some Japanese Columbias with pianist Max Pirani but whether they survive I don’t know. Which means the three examples here are pretty much all that exists and show a bit of a stylistic and tonal mismatch between the intellectual Szigeti and the gemütlich blandishments of the Austrian.

The third volume in this gatefold series is finely transferred and carries the usual succinct one-page note from Obert-Thorn.

Jonathan Woolf

Availability: Pristine Classical

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Reverie and Caprice, Op. 8 (1841)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (1878)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Constant Lambert (Berlioz)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham (Mendelssohn)
Hallé Orchestra/Hamilton Harty (Brahms)

CD 2
Johannes Brahms
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888)
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dance in G minor, Op. 46, No. 2 arr. Kreisler (1878)
Slavonic Dance in E minor, Op. 72, No. 2 arr. Kreisler – first recording (1886)
Slavonic Dance in E minor, Op. 72, No. 2 (arr. Kreisler) – second recording (1886)
Jenő Hubay (1858-1937)
Zephyr, Op. 30, No. 5 (1890)
Scenes from the Czardas No. 3, Op. 18, “Maros vize” (c 1885)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumblebee from Tsar Sultan, Op. 57 arr. Hartmann (1900)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Danza española No. 1 from La vida breve arr. Kreisler (1904-05)
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)
Scherzo-valse from Pièces pittoresques arr. Loeffler (1881)
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Adieu arr. Szigeti (1932)
Serenade arr. Szigeti (1932)
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Sicilienne et rigaudon (in the style of Francoeur)
Liebesleid (3:27)
Tambourin chinois, Op, 3
Egon Petri (piano, tracks 1 – 4): Kurt Ruhrseitz (piano, tracks 5 – 9, 16 – 18): Nikita Magaloff (piano, tracks 10 – 15)