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No chocolate, chew a CD.

June 5, 2007 at 1:48 AM

Having been banned from chocolate, coffee, ice cream and bungee jumping without a chord there are few pleasurable options left in life except adding a few more CDs to the collection. Yesterday was no exception and since Deutsche Gramophone has released an incredibly cheap `one hundred best recordings of all time` here in Japan it was clearly time to splash again. Obviously such a project is inherently silly but I did pull out three CDs last night which I thought worth reviewing.
The first I stuck in the player was Menuhin and Kempf playing the Spring and Kreutzer. Personally I have found over the years my Spring first movement getting faster and faster. Aside from the point that Beethoven didn’t add the sentimental title I have been very much in agreement with Rostal`s opinion that it is almost always played too slowly, part of the consequence of being hacked around by beginners too often. Plus, since it is one of Japan’s favorite recital pieces I have heard it murdered more times than I would care to remember , often by good violinist who don’t give it the time and thought it deserves. Playing it rather fast also seems to clarify the architecture of the work for me- somehow it hangs together better. Menuhin goes the other way, sort of...
He begins really slowly and makes love to every note. It’s just fantastic! The interesting thing is that by the time the recapitulation comes round he has increased the tempo so that he is exploring the music in a whole new way, but the shift is so gradual and subtle it creeps up on the QT. It takes a really great artist to pull of something like this.
Second CD was the young ASM playing Mozart 3 and 5 with the Berlin Phil under Karajan. I have long wondered where the historical support for the now de rigueur downsizing of orchestra for any Mozart in Japan comes from. It certainly isn’t Mozart’s letters which include one in which he expresses his delight at hearing one of his works with a –very- big orchestra. Harnoncourt has written against this minimalist trend too I believe. Anyway, the BPO provides one of the most fantastic introductions to no 3 I have ever heard. Huge sound but absolute clarity of voices – the effect is stunning. What can one say about ASM? Great sound, technique, phrasing etc. But I think it is fair to say that she evolved over quite a long time as a truly great artist and this still seems to me to be recording of a young person who has not yet full blossomed. It is all so impeccably (dare on say rigidly?) held in place without the subtle inflections of tempo and rhythm that really make Mozart come alive. As such it only scores a b+. Not yet the awesome player of today.
The last choice was Milstein in what I think is his best recording of the Mendelssohn, the one he made with Abbado. I do believe this is one of the all time greats. Just slashing, swashbuckling, tender, brilliant playing of such ease it makes ones jaw drop. Listening to this kind of recording tells us wannabies how far away from realizing this piece we are when we spend six months preparing it for this or that college audition or as a warm up for the `more difficult` concertos.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 2:15 AM
No chocolate, coffee or ice cream? Oh dear, how sad. I am working my way through a bar of Ghirardelli right now. I was going to just eat half, but I will force down the whole thing in your honor.

I have ASM's Mozart 5, which is paired with her Mendelssohn, from 1981. I also have her Brahms sonatas, with Alexis Weissenberg, from 1983. I really like her recordings she cut as a teenager, and I prefer listening to them to her newer recordings. Her style is so fresh and straightforward, and I am always impressed. Her musical choices just seem so right. Tone, intonation...everything just so great.

Alexis Weissenberg's Debussy is pretty nice too, in case anyone is interested.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 3:28 AM
Ahh CDs! I’m having chocolate, coffee, ice cream all at once and am listening to the new CD just arrived in my mailbox today. It’s Testament’s Veneu (first recordings) and Hassid (complete recordings). Life is so good!

Oh, and don’t forget the books too. I got Applebaum’s “The Way They Play – Bk1” the other day from ABE Books for a reasonable price. They’ve got a few more copies so check it out if you want to:

From Ben Clapton
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 4:01 AM
I don't know how you do it Buri, I couldn't live without bungee jumping without a chord.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 4:22 AM
c minor is the chord of choice.
Yixi I had all the Way they play books when I wa sa kid. Should ahve kept them as they would be worth a fortune. Book one I have pretty much from memory.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 4:39 AM
Buri,are the book 2, 3, 4,... as good as the book 1? As I said, I don't recall paying too much for the book 1 at the ABE (The prices ranging from less than $20 to over $100 there) so I might be getting the later ones too if they are as good as the book 1.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 5:29 AM
in terms of sheer information number two is my all time favorite. Fourteen is another great one.
They are all worth having. How are you going to explain it to your husband;)?
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 5:49 AM
Buri,I'll get the book 2 and 14. When it comes to classical music and books, my husband is worse than I am. We have very few furnatures and no wall space because the books and CDs are taking over the house so much so that we'll soon have to find a bigger house for them.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 6:39 AM
To me, ASM transcends normal violin playing, and that includes all the old masters, although they have their highlights. She seems to choose an approach for each individual piece. For example I heard her new Thais Meditation on the radio tonight and there was something very old-fashioned about it.
From Scott 68
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 6:04 PM
mmm crunchy
From Scott 68
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 6:05 PM
ps i like early mutter too the mendelssohn and bruch especially and the beethoven vid - you will notice her vibrato changed over the years compare the mendelssohn to something like say the brahms sonatas very different sounding

the mozart 5 was good, the mozart 3 was slow for me - note > i think the mozart recording she did was done with her old violin the emilia strad not the dunraven strad, a sweeter tone with less projection

love weissenburg - loved the brahms sonatas they recorded - him not her, her vibrato was already too wide for me even then

if you can find rachamninoff sonatas with weissenberg its unbelieveable but hard to find also saw a thing on youtube oh him playing a rach concerto with unbelieveable expression

From Scott 68
Posted on June 5, 2007 at 6:15 PM
From Emily Grossman
Posted on June 6, 2007 at 6:02 AM
Scott, I could have written the exact thing you wrote about the Brahms sonatas. I have a recording of Weissenburg playing Debussy's Suite Bergamasque. Bought it on a whim one day, without knowing who he was. I was looking for Debussy at the book store, found the title, previewed a few seconds of it, and was moved to tears instantly. I never get tired of hearing him play.
From Florian Rago
Posted on June 6, 2007 at 10:46 AM
Milstein's Mendelssohn is a joy. The introduction to the last movement always seems to be a test of the whole and for me milstein plays that tiny snippet (wonderful snippet) superbly.

However the mendelssohn is always with me as a piece written FOR Grumiaux

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 6, 2007 at 10:35 PM
the interesitng thin is that Milstein said he didn`t like Abbado@s conducting...
From Alan Wittert
Posted on June 7, 2007 at 5:17 AM
I'm delighted to read your comments on the Menuhin Kempf "Spring." It has long been one of my favorite recordings. What a peerless matching. Thank you.

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