Rozsa, Korngold: Violin Concertos

Regular price $16.99
Added to Cart! View cart or continue shopping.

RÓZSA Violin Concerto. KORNGOLD Violin Concerto & Matthew Trusler (vn); Yasuo Shinozaki, cond; Düsseldorf SO ORCHID 100005 (68: 06)

k PONCE Estrellita. BENJAMIN Jamaican Rumba. FOSTER Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair

Matthew Trussler’s collection of works for violin and orchestra (three of them arrangements by Peter Ash of pieces for violin and piano) pays tribute to Jascha Heifetz, who played the concertos and Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba and made stunning arrangements of Estrellita and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair . The program opens with Miklós Rózsa’s concerto, which Heifetz himself recorded in 1956 with Walter Hendl and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Unlike Korngold’s concerto (and Walton’s), the work received little attention from other violinists (although its materials appeared reworked as a movie score, with the violin solos performed by an uncredited violinist, in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes ), at least until recently, when Robert McDuffie recorded it with Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Telarc 80518, reviewed by Royal S. Brown in Fanfare 23:4 (with my interview with McDuffie appearing in the same issue). Heifetz’s recording always seemed somewhat perfunctory, although it inspired at least one of my fellow students to study the concerto, and McDuffie’s digital recording allowed for reassessment—as does Trusler’s. Playing a 1711 Stradivari that the engineers have set in a natural balance with the orchestra, he revels, perhaps more than Heifetz did, in the first movement’s lyrical moments, though he commands attention in the percussive passages—in which Heifetz still reigns supreme. Perhaps on account of Trusler’s loving attention, the first movement’s affinity with specific moments in Bartók’s concerto reveals itself with notable clarity. The slow movement cloaks its Hungarian and, at times, Bartókian sensibility under a lush, cinematic orchestration and a soaring solo part, which Trusler and the orchestra realize with ingratiating warmth. The finale, which begins ferociously, settles into more atmospheric meandering, strongly reminiscent, in this performance, of, again, explicit moments in Bartók’s concerto, though the composer has rounded many of the edges. Whether or not McDuffie’s and now Trusler’s performances will be able to do for Rózsa’s concerto what Heifetz’s championship and its movie appearance couldn’t, remains to be seen. But it’s a confident and idiomatic realization of this virtuosic work that collectors should welcome warmly.

Each time I review a new recording of Korngold’s concerto, I think (and perhaps hope), at least for a few measures, that it will break the spell of Heifetz’s performance—his sound still creeps into the ear on every hearing. And an alternative, live Heifetz performance from March 30, 1947, with Efrem Kurtz appeared on Music and Arts 766. Unlike Rózsa’s concerto, which began on the concert stage and later visited the cinema, Korngold assembled his (at least drew its thematic materials and ambiance) from movie scores, so swashbuckling élan vies with lush romanticism throughout. If Trusler generates in the first movement a lower voltage than did Heifetz in his early recordings, Yasuo Shinozaki and the orchestra breathe the score’s Hollywood atmosphere, and Trusler himself alternates sparkling brilliance with soaring lyricism. And if he lacks Heifetz’s high tensile strength in the slow movement, he’s deeply ingratiating in its most songful moments, in which he stops to smell the roses. Heifetz’s playing of the finale’s main theme recalls all three elves, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, but Trusler’s version strikes a different chord, though it hardly lacks brilliance. As did the recent recordings by James Ehnes (CBC 5241, Fanfare 32:3), Nikolaj Znaider (RCA 710336, Fanfare 32:6), and Philippe Quint (Naxos 8.570791, Fanfare 33:2), but perhaps to an even greater degree, Trusler’s, in collaboration with his sympathetic partners, projects a contrasting, softer-grained (though not necessarily more lushly romantic) image of the concerto, one that may not efface Heifetz’s impression but one that nevertheless seems highly personal and similarly compelling. Pavel Šporcl’s reading (Supraphon 3962, Fanfare 33:4) approaches most closely Trusler’s sense of relaxed lushness.

In the three encores, Trusler again takes an individual tack, never mimicking his model but recalling nevertheless the era Heifetz dominated. Ash’s unobtrusive orchestrations in Estrellita and Jeannie nevertheless resonate with similar ones with which, for example, Heifetz played encores on the radio or Kreisler played his own works in his album These are My Favorites , with Charles O’Connell and the Victor Symphony Orchestra (on 78s, RCA MO 910, from January 15, 1942), while his zesty arrangement of Jamaican Rumba creates a brilliant impression in its own right.

For those who believe that Heifetz’s memory will be best served by violinists who make no attempt to follow him slavishly (as did, for example, Erick Friedman, at least on occasion), Trusler’s tribute will seem particularly apt. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ORC100005

  • UPC: 5060189560059

  • Label: Orchid Classics

  • Composer: Arthur Benjamin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jascha Heifetz, Miklós Rózsa, Stephen Foster

  • Conductor: Yasuo Shinozaki

  • Performer: Matthew Trusler