DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Concert by Ivry Gitlis, violin

He plays with a lean, nasal sound; the video performances are from 1965-1973.

Published on July 23, 2007

Concert by Ivry Gitlis, violin
Concert by Ivry Gitlis, violin

Program: TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in d Major, Op. 35; BRAHMS: Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108: Allegro; BARTOK: Sonata fior Solo Violin: Melodia; ELGAR: La Capricieuse, Op. 17; WIENIAWSKI: Polonaise Brillante in D, Op. 4; Caprice-Valse in E, Op. 7; SAINT-SAENS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28; MOSZKOWSKI: Guitarre, Op. 45, No. 2 (arr. SARASATE); ALBENIZ: Malaguena, Op. 165, No. 3 (arr. KREISLER); BONUS = PAGANINI: La Campanella from Violin Concerto no. 2 in B Minor, Op. 7


Performers: Ivry Gitlis, violin/ Orchestre National de l’ORTF/ Francesco Mander/ Tasso Janopouo, piano (Wieniawski, Brahms, Elgar)/ Georges Pludermacher, piano (Saint-Saens, Moszkowski, Albeniz)/ Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra/ Stanislaw Wislocki, conductor (Paganini)
Studio: EMI Classics DVD DVB 38846994
Video: 4:3 full screen; Black & White
Audio: PCM Mono
Extras: See above
Length: 75:22
Rating:****

Ivry Gitlis (b. 1922) is a former pupil of Enesco, Flesch, and Thibaud, even a protégé of Huberman, who made a career in France as well as in Israel. He plays a lovely instrument, the so-called “Swan-Song” Stradivarius, and he plays it well, a lean, nasal sound somewhat thinner than that of his colleague Christian Ferras. The performances on this video extend 1965-1973. The Tchaikovsky Concerto (13 June 1965) has Gitlis taking a long-lined, arched stance in the opening movement, with Mander and the orchestra alert and responsive to Gitlis’ subtle shifts in rhythm and dynamics, accompanied by a wickedly fast vibrato. Mander is gaunt, athletic figure, a Markevitch in miniature with a flexible baton arm. Rather than invoke his whle left arm, he wiggles his fingers for flutter effects.

After the first big orchestral tutti, Gitlis plies the variations in a stupendously quick, gypsy style worthy of his mentor Huberman. The camera comes in close for the cadenza, as well it might, Gitlis being fixed on the violin’s bridge, eyes closed. The flute entry and Gitlis make a fluent pair. Gitlis begins to move about, no longer frozen in place a la Heifetz. Glassy, smooth transitions and shifts of violin registration, a master at work, the excitement now palpable as we approach the false tutti into the extended coda. Definitely worth a few claps at the end of that one!

Nice woodwind sonority for the Canzonetta opening, with Gitlis taking a very slow, eerily harmonized attack on his entry material. Much rhythmic give-and-take as Gitlis extends the melodic line, the surface of the music moving briskly in the Milstein manner. Fluency and passion as the violin weaves through the flute and woodwind warbling. A big gesture from Mander, and we are thrown into a roused-up gypsy camp. Catch Gitlis if you can, he cuts through every difficulty like the hot, Sahara sun melting an ice cream cone. Now the camera wants us to watch his left hand shifts, large and secure. Oboe and clarinet take their turn, then Gitlis and the cellos. Gitlis leans hard into the melodic form of the dance, then the electricity picks up with ever-mounting urgency. The edition is the cut one, but by now we simply don’t care. The final round is all muscle and lightning bolts, the French ensemble having been converted to Russian orthodoxy. The twinkle in Gitlis’ eye at the last note alerts us that he knows his place in the Pantheon.

Les Grands Interpretes (5 June 1962) opens in a simulated drawing room, with Tasso Janopoulo at the keyboard for the first movement of the Brahms D Minor Sonata, played with fervent sympathy by Gitlis. The camera likes to isolate his bow arm and the fluent left hand as he wends his way across the Brahms autumn landscape. We can see how quickly the left makes vibrato even the music assumes a colossal, emotional character. Many will find the Melodia section of the Bartok Solo Sonata the most musically memorable moment; he provides all of the emotional content Menuhin bestows on this piece besides Gitlis’ own racy, pungent tone. A lovely, pure flute tone and adjusted harmonics. Back to the keyboard for the flighty, quicksilver Elgar work, a distinct foil to the meditations of the Bartok.

Janopoulo’s right hand beats out the rhythm for the Wieniawski Polonaise, a veritable bout of gypsy fever and pyrotechnics from Gitlis his able accompanist, dazzling as the violin wizardry we expect from Ruggiero Ricci. A distraction is the French TV program’s superimposition of the end credits over Gitlis as he moves into the last page. Janopoulo appears one more time (12 April 1968) with Gitlis, before a live audience for Wieniawski’s suavely sophisticated Caprice-Valse, a Heifetz staple to which Gitlis applies a whistling flute tone.

Gitlis then performs with Georges Pludermacher (17 Novembwer 1971 and 21 August 1973), who later accompanied Milstein. Nice long shot past Gitlis to Pludermacher for the first page of Saint-Saens. Gitlis lingers over the phrases, then he adds rasping tremolos to the runs. Strong pedal, and then the (Algerian) march, dancing within the confines of Gitlis‚ especial rubati. Overhead camera rapidly switches with straight-on, medium shots to move the music forward. We see a picture of Dvorak behind Gitlis as he moves to the exotic, hothouse middle section. The climax jumps with color and spiccato frenzy, a tour de force. Pludermacher sports a Reginald Gardiner mustache for the Moszkowski and Albeniz pieces. Gitlis spins out high-flung Iberian magic, whether echt or imported.

The bonus track, Paganini (3 October 1966), starts off with a totally black background for Gitlis, the orchestra completely invisible. Even the orchestral tutti gives us only a stage light and music from space while Gitlis listens. The “little bell” enjoys limpid, elegant phrasing, light touches and washes of sound. Poetic bravura and dazzling showmanship.

One caveat: one must refer to the menu constantly after each part of the EMI program, a nuisance.

– Gary Lemco




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