Milstein's Dvorak & Glazunov
Antonin Dvorak & Alexander Glazunov: Violin
Nathan Milstein, violin;
William Steinberg conducting the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Review by Wayne Donnelly
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LP Stock Number:
Capitol SP 8382 [Cisco Music]
Cisco Music has done music lovers a great service by reissuing this jewel from the Capitol Records early stereo catalog. Both of these concertos are somewhat underrepresented by recordings and concert performances, especially compared to such romantic warhorses as the Mendelssohn, Bruch and Tchaikovsky concertos. Both of these concertos are skillfully composed and orchestrated, filled with good tunes, and sufficiently difficult to challenge any violin virtuoso.
The Dvorak dates from 1870, when the composer was 38 years old. No romantic composer had a more fertile melodic gift than Dvorak, and as we might expect, his only violin concerto is brimming with enough melodic ideas for a half-dozen compositions from less gifted composers. The first and second movements are played without interruption, and the transition between them is very graceful.
The young Glazunov enjoyed support from both of the (frequently antagonistic toward each other) camps of late-romantic Russian music: the nationalists headed by Rimsky-Korsakov and the traditionalists, among whom Anton Rubenstein (himself very little known today) was pre-eminent. The
Violin Concerto in A minor, written in 1904, looks backward to the late romantics rather than forward to modernists such as Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Although a three-movement progression is discernible, the concerto is played without pause. It is unusually short, and differs from the typical romantic concerto in having two rather terse opening sections, with the thematic development concentrated in the final section.
Milstein had a lifelong association with both of these works, and his affection for them is obvious in these performances. My collection has four fine recordings of the Dvorak -- by Johanna Martzy Josef
Suk, Isaac Stern and a later Milstein -- but after several hearings I'm awarding the palm to this early Milstein. Even more than his legendary flawless technique, Milstein's securely idiomatic command of both concertos could hardly be bettered. Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony are in perfect step with the soloist, and they do full justice to the concertos' orchestral demands.
Kudos to all concerned for the gorgeous facsimile of the original cover, the wonderful remastering of what was obviously a superb original recording, and the flawlessly quiet 180-gram pressings. In my opinion, this is a must-have record.