INKPOT#86 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: Menuhin In Memoriam. TCHAIKOVSKY/BEETHOVEN Violin Concertos (DG)
Yehudi Menuhin In Memoriam
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON Signature 463 175-2
by Derek Lim
Menuhin on his concert tours with Fricsay
Extract from “Conversations with Menuhin” by Robin Daniels.
Here’s a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot. The first disc has Menuhin’s only live performance recording of the Tchaikovsky (heavily cut in the last movement, and partially cut in the first), but the set is filled up with his performances of the Beethoven violin sonatas from his cycle with Wilhelm Kempff in 1970, a classic cycle which everyone should listen to, but which is already available separately on 4 budget-price discs. That’s marketing for you! Should I not have had the curiosity, I would have left this purchase on very low priority. Too bad for my wallet, I just had to listen to Menuhin play the Tchaikovksy.
So how’s the Tchaikovsky would be the main point in question here. Menuhin plays with verve and character on what, according to the account above, must have been his six-hundredth time with the concerto. There are more than enough spots with insecure intonation, but musically, I find his account of the concerto interesting to say the least, and revealing. Menuhin’s personal tenacity shines through the performance, and Fricsay accompanies with gut and fervour, in full-blooded Romantic way. Menuhin’s interpretation is an odd-ball cross between Classical singleness of tempo while being at the same time more expressive and unsentimental than most of the accounts (Oistrakh, Milstein, I know). I found this performance, while far from being immaculate, more interesting and musical than many accounts I know. In places, Menuhin speeds ahead of the orchestra, refusing to slow down and thus making real musical dialog, and enhancing Tchaikovsky’s already dramatic music. Unfortunately there is a small cut in the first movement, and many huge ones in the Finale, but anyone who has been entranced with Menuhin’s playing will find this worth checking out. Ferenc Fricsay was an amazing conductor, and his Tchaikovksy is not disappointing.
The Beethoven sonatas come from the cycle with Wilhelm Kempff in 1970, where they were so happy with the freshness of their first “take” of most of the sonatas that they decided to release those. They find an amazing youthfulness in the first movement, giving way to a gentle lament of the slow movement. This account is very satisfying and most of all, very relaxed, especially in the beautiful last movement. The duo’s searching interpretation of the ‘Kreutzer’ is similarly inspired and unmissable. Menuhin knew his Beethoven, and so did Kempff, and if their playing doesn’t always fit hand-in-glove, so all the better for it! This is stellar quality chamber music – both musicians were avid chamber musicians and it shows. The remaining sonatas – the C-minor is suitably brooding, and rather tragic in character, and the Rondo in G major is youthfully played. I say, if you don’t have the complete sonata set, and don’t mind just having the few represented here, get it! Otherwise, I really wish DG could have released more unavailable material, such as his performances when he was younger. Perhaps the Tchaikovsky violin concerto could be a deciding factor for you!
Menuhin on the Tchaikovsky violin concerto
(from Conversations with Menuhin)
Second to listening to music, Derek Lim likes reading about music.
598: 10.10.1999 Derek Lim