Old recordings

March 10, 2006 at 09:32 PM · I am very interested in finding certain recordings, and was wondering if they are available or even exist at all.

These are the ones I very much doubt exist:

A recording of Wieniawsky

A recording of Vieuxtemps

These are the ones I'm hoping for:

Joseph Joachim playing the Mendelssohn

Joseph Joachim playing the Brahms

Pablo de Sarasate playing the Carmen Fantasy

Fritz Kreisler playing the Elgar Concerto

basically stuff like this. If you know these exist I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me know, even if all you know is "it exists" or "are you insane? This doesn't exist!"

Replies (21)

March 10, 2006 at 10:24 PM · Joseph:

I don't think any of these exist...I believe I have seen some specific comments that Kreisler never recorded the Elgar. They wanted him to do it with the composer, but I think there were issues with Kreisler being and RCA artist and the recording company being someone else.

Sarasate recorded part of the Gypsy Airs (or maybe all of it). But I've never seen the Carmen.

March 10, 2006 at 11:23 PM · Sarasate recorded a couple of his Spanish Dances, including Habanera and Zapateado. In addition, he recorded his Caprice Basque, Caprice Jota, the Introduction et Tarantelle, Miramar and a slightly truncated Zigeunerweisen (the muted section is left out). He also recorded his own transcription of the Chopin E flat nocturne, and a comically fast recording of the E major partita prelude. I think the speed is due to the recording process though.

Joachim recorded the Tempo de Borea from the B minor partita, as well as the Adagio from the G minor sonata. These recordings are quite fascinating, and give us a nice glimpse at how Bach was performed in the 19th century. Joachim was also a composer, and recorded his Romance in C major, a very pretty piece. He is probably best known nowadays for his Brahms Hungarian Dances transcriptions. He recorded the first and second one.

There are quite a few interesting recordings of Kreisler out on the market, including a very funny one of him playing the Dvorak "Humoresque" on piano. His recording of the Bach "Double" with Zimbalist is very beautiful as well - both performs had very unqique styles that seemed to complement each other perfectly. Another fun recording is of his 75th birthday speech. He was quite a witty man, even until the day he died, and never lost his amazing sense of charm.

You seem to be quite interested in old recordings, so I would suggest hunting down a very rare recording of August Whilhelmj (famous for the Ave Maria transcription)playing Paganini's "Witches Dance". It is quite interesting, not necessarily good. He was considered one of Paganini's heirs, especially after he came up with fingered octaves. There is a very rare recording of Brahms playing an excerpt of his first hungarian dance. It is truly fascinating to see how he would have played it.

Happy hunting!

March 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM · Hi,

Nice post George!!! Impressive! To expand on what's been said. Kreisler was to record to the Elgar but something happened and he couldn't make it, so the opportunity was given instead to the prodigy Yehudi Menhuin. It became one of the most celebrated collaborations of all time.

Both Vieuxtemps and Wieniawsky died before the recording era. The Brahms recording of his own Hungarian dance (only a few bars) is interesting. It was made on a wire during the 1890's. At the end of the excerpt he introduces himself "Ich heisse Johannes Brahms" and astonishing is the incredibly high pitch of his voice.

The only recorded performance of a Brahms work by Joachim is of the Brahms first Hungarian Dance, and it is an interesting recording for style. Worth a listen for sure. His Bach G minor Adagio is not representative I think of the 19th century, but representative of Joachim himself. Joachim was the first to re-introduce the Bach S&P's to the public and his approach contrasts greatly with anyone around him or for the next 50 years. It is based on an earlier edition (he was the one to bring Bach's original manuscript to light in the early 20th century). Astonishing is his constant pulse yet free rubato and the absence of portati (there are only 1 or 2) - his approach has more in common with the later baroque movement than the playing style of the period.

Sarasate's recordings, though at the very end of his career, give us a glimpse into his playing style. Worth a listen for sure. The Bach speed is due to the fact that it was transfered too quickly which affected the speed and pitch.

For a glimpse into the possible style of Vieuxtemps or Wieniawsky, I would suggest listening to the recordings of pieces of these people by Ysa├┐e who studied with both. There is a recording of the Vieuxtemps Rondio and the Wieniawsky Obertass. That is the closest you are likely to get.

Hope this helps and Cheers!

March 11, 2006 at 05:59 AM · Joachim recorded two of Brahms's Hungarian Dances (#'s 1 and 2) in 1903. These are available on Testament SBT2 1323 (an altogether remarkable 2-CD set of rare historical violin performances), and also on the Opal label. Both of these have recordings of Sarasate and Ysaye as well, including Ysaye whipping through Hungarian Dance #5.

For a listen to August Wilhelmj playing 'Witches' Dance' (La Streghe Op.8)by Paganini) go to: http://www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/wam.html#how

This is an extraordinary recording and most certainly the strangest you ever will have heard. And if you tire of violin music you can also listen to Florence Nightingale from a speech recorded in 1890.

March 11, 2006 at 12:19 PM · Fritz Kreisler has played the Elgar in London and potentially the radio broadcast could be recorded by an audio enthusiast but I think we are not in any luck bearing in mind how limited the audio recording possibilities were at the time. mind you if this kind of a recording did come up at any time it would be extremely commercially lucrative to get our dirty hands on the master :) but Yehudi did a good job. also look out for one of the very first recordings of this concerto with an english violinist phenomenon Albert Sammons. that recording is very authentic and reveals a lot of the spirit of that time. it's very fast due to the limitations of the technology (ie they had to fit it to the length of the tape and Elgar is a long concerto)

March 11, 2006 at 02:23 PM · IMO, Sammon's and Heifetz's are the best versions

ever made of Elgar's v.c. Heifetz's is a marvel

technically speaking, but Sammon's is absolutly

english and edwardian in spirit.

One of the earliest violin recordings were Hubermann's for Berliner label in 1899/900. That's

before Joachim, Sarasate, Auer, Kreisler or Maud.

March 11, 2006 at 07:40 PM · Hi,

Alan - I listened to the Wilhelmj excerpt. That was weird beyond belief. WOW!


March 11, 2006 at 08:56 PM · It sure is. For those who haven't heard her, go to Amazon and listen to Maud Powell clips from roughly the same timeframe. The conceptualization must have been so different in those days, it's like a different instrument. Weird by our standards but no less entertaining and musical than modern players, to me at least. Interesting that in that timeframe you'll hear instances of things that to modern ears are beginner mistakes. That led to my thread about whether playing has "progressed," as in Babe Ruth making beginner mistakes by today's batters' standards, which erupted into nuclear warfare.

One thing that makes it interesting is you will often see a similar sequence at the micro and macro levels. So you might expect to see the violin playing world go through the same thing over decades as an individual would display over the years. The history of chemistry begins with alchemy, which is pretty similar to a tiny future chemist making mud pies in her backyard:)

March 11, 2006 at 10:54 PM · If you are looking for a really interesting, and good Kreisler recording, the Grieg Sonatas with Rachmaninov are excellent!

March 12, 2006 at 01:58 AM · Christian, re the Wilhelmj excerpt. in spite of the technical strangeness (which so odd I don't feel comfortable calling them shortcomings) there is a sense of this piece actually being sung...by a witch. I too have never heard anything close to this weirdness and yet, it works! A-stoot comment from Jim, too.

March 12, 2006 at 02:40 PM · I don't find the Wilhelmj excerpt so strange...just yesterday at a wedding I played the Pachelbel Canon in D in a similar fashion.

March 12, 2006 at 09:07 PM · Yes. I heard the couple are already filing for divorce.

March 13, 2006 at 12:02 AM · Well, thanks for the info everbody. I guess I was hoping for a little too much from the very beginning of the recording era.

Btw. That Witches Dance scared me O__o It's very different. I suppose it's actually more appropriate for the subject matter...

October 10, 2007 at 02:38 AM · I discovered Kreisler playing Caprice Viennois with an orchestra on a website.


October 10, 2007 at 04:44 AM · Greetings,

I studied with astduent of Sammons and he told me how Sammons showed him a letter he had received from Heifetz praising his Elgar and stating that it had helped him with his own interpretation. A very generous gesture from the `cold fish.`!



October 10, 2007 at 12:23 PM · Not any of the players you name and works

recordings exists. Certainly Sarasate could

have recorded his Carmen, and Kreisler should

have recorded Elgar's. but it doesen't happen.

October 10, 2007 at 12:39 PM · Wonderful discussion. Great to hear yet another example that the "cold fish" (i.e., Heifetz) could on occasion be a generous and modest colleague. If you listen to some of those early Hubermann recordings, they're inconsistent, but the Chopin arrangements have something about the performances that are mesmerizing and positively haunting (in a good sense). Even if you don't like any of those old historical recordings, especially Joachim and Sarasate past their prime, the historical links are thrilling. Just think, when you listen to Joachim, you are listening to the person who revived the Beethoven Concerto (with Mendellsohn conducting) and practically discovered Brahms.

October 10, 2007 at 03:43 PM · Buri - I am not surprised that Sammons' interpretation helped Heifetz. Sammons performed the piece under Elgar's direction a number of times which gives his interpretation an authenticity matched only by Menuhin's recording with Elgar.

October 11, 2007 at 01:06 AM · I've to dissent about Sarasate. He was sixty some when he made his very few recordings, he was not

past his prime and his technique is amazing IMHO.

October 11, 2007 at 02:48 AM · http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1034242/a/Opal+Joachim,+Sarasate+And+Ysa%FFe+-+Complete+Recordings.htm

This CD has most of the recordings of Joachim, Sarasate, and Ysaye. There is also a recording of Ysaye playing the last movement of the Mendelssohn, but I'm far too lazy to look for it.


October 11, 2007 at 04:04 AM · I wish...that I had the power to go back into time...or to manipulate time. It would be so wonderful to be able to listen to all those legends live!!!!!!!!

And the Sarasate recording was NOT past his prime. His recordings are so wonderful and exquisite!

It's also interesting to note the absence of vibrato and how other than shifting, the right hand only was used to create different "colors".

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