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Trawling for treasure

BILL NEWMAN seeks out Golden Age performers now reinstated on CD

BBC    BBCL 4050-2

BBC Legends - Menuhin - Rostropovich (c) 2000 BBC Music


Looking back over Lord Menuhin's long career, it would be hard to name another man and musician so immersed in every aspect of the world we live in, constantly striving to endorse proposals, improvements, and solutions for the cause of music -- and peace -- with people generally. His charisma as an artist is known worldwide.

Constantly, one caught the charisma of the artist as he calmly walked on the platform, smiled at the audience then quietly turned around, placing his violin beneath his chin awaiting the signal to begin. Away from his performing commitments, his appearances on TV's Brains Trust, the formation of new festivals, the Menuhin School, and help to others in need stands high on anyone's list of achievements, and he always found the time in a busy schedule to talk to eager listeners.

When I was first introduced to him at his favourite Cranks vegetarian restaurant in London's Soho, I expressed disappointment with his best selling EMI recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with Kurtz and the Philharmonia (c/w Bruch's in G minor). 'I quite agree, I didn't like it either!' When you listen to the Mendelssohn on this BBC Legends disc with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony, you won't believe it can be played better. Sparkling vitality and tonal sweetness combine on a Kreislerian level to give an angelic essence that refuses comparisons with other great violinists. The immediacy is spellbinding, and you plainly sense the LSO support him to the full.

I well remember the sheer aura of the Menuhin-Oistrakh concerts. Now it was the turn to join forces with Russia's greatest cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. There is a special art of making music together, and Brahms' Double Concerto at a fairly broadish tempo possesses dividends that allows inspiration to shine out from every phrase, soloists and orchestra alike. This is the kind of performance you rarely hear on a commercial recording, almost as if the two soloists are imparting on-the-spot revelations of inspired meaning that are part of their musical makeup, saved up then brought into force for the special occasion. Total elegance might be an apt description, but there is so much love as well as daring during the first two movements, and lilting joy in the Finale [listen -- track 3, 0:28-1:25].

Love and an enormous feeling for authority has always stood firmly the passage of time in Menuhin's Bach playing. Like Szigeti in devotional terms, but different in a soulful sense, the E major Concerto's dramatic cum radiant message evokes a spiritual quality that has everlasting appeal. The English Chamber Orchestra and George Malcolm supply the finishing touch.

As for the recording overall: you might be there! A quite wonderful release.

To be continued >>


Copyright © 6 June 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK







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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews