Korngold, Rozsa: Violin Concertos; Waxman / Jascha Heifetz

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This record of works written specially for Heifetz by Hollywood film composers will have one even more open-mouthed than usual at his pure wizardry.

This is a record to have one even more openmouthed than usual at the pure wizardry of Heifetz. All four works were written specially for him by Hollywood film composers, all of them émigrés from Europe. Where Korngold, the boywonder composer who never fulfilled the dazzling promise of his youth, used material for this Violin Concerto which he had already written for films—Another Dawn, Juarez, Anthony Adverse and The Prince and the Pauper—it was the other way about with Rózsa and Waxman. Rôzsa, in response to Heifetz's commission, wrote his concerto at high speed, then worked with l-leifetz on the details for 18 months, then finally used it in a subsequent film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Waxman, after writing his Carmen Fantasy, also used it in the film, Humoresque. The Rózsa Tema con variazioni is the middle-movement of a Sinfonia concertante for violin, cello and orchestra, that he wrote for Piatigorsky—the other soloist here—as well as Heifetz.

None of this is great music, but in the hands of the magician who prompted it, it has many delights. If the Korngold brings the most striking ideas, the Rózsa pieces with their gentle Hungarian flavour (much closer to Kodály than to Bartok) are charming too, while the Waxman is a splendid firework display. That Waxman piece was recorded as early as 1946, long before the rest, with rather scrubby sound and an uneven surface even in the digital transfer. The Korngold followed in 1953, the Rózsa Concerto in 1956 and the Variations in 1963. Though the booklet keeps quiet about it, only the two Rózsa items appear to be in stereo. Few will worry about such points when the playing is so astonishing, and whatever the recording quality the solo instrument stands out vividly. The slight hum detectable in quiet passages is not so distracting as in some other Heifetz vintage transfers. There is a highly informative note by Richard Freed.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [4/1989]

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: RCA7963

  • UPC: 078635796322

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Miklós Rózsa

  • Conductor: Alfred Wallenstein, Donald Voorhees, Walter Hendl

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Chamber Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Gregor Piatigorsky, Jascha Heifetz