Classical Reissue Reviews

Szymon Goldberg, violin, Vol. 1: Non-Commercial Recordings – Music & Arts (8 CDs)

Goldberg has traversed much of the canon of great violin literature in his extraordinarily fertile style.

Published on August 26, 2009

Szymon Goldberg, violin, Vol. 1: Non-Commercial Recordings – Music & Arts (8 CDs)

Szymon Goldberg, Vol. 1: Non-Commercial Recordings  = BACH: Violin Concertos in A Minor and E Major; Concerto in D Minor for Violin and Oboe; Brandenburg Concertos No. 5 in D and 6 in B-flat Major; Sinfonia to Cantata No. 21; Sonata No. 1 in G Minor for Unaccompanied Violin; Partita in D Minor for Unaccompanied Violin;  BABIN: Konzerstueck; BARTOK: Sonata for Sol Violin; BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D; Variations in G Major “Kakadu”; Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 2; Piano Trio in D Major “Geister”; Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30, No. 1; BERG: Violin Concerto; BRAHMS: Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102; DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in G Minor; DVORAK: Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75; GLUCK: Melodie from Orfeo ed Euridice; HAYDN: Violin Concerto in C Major; Scena: “Non parti bell’idol mio – Berenice, che fai?”; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D; SCHOENBERG: Fantasy, Op. 47; SCHUBERT: Adagio and Rondo in A, D. 438; SCHUMANN: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor; STRAVINSKY: Duo Concertante; WEBERN: Four Pieces, Op. 7 – Szymon Goldberg, violin/Haakon Stotijn, oboe/Janny von Wering, harpsichord/Marcia Curcio, piano/Adriaan Bonsel, flute/Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/Artur Balsam, piano (Schumann, Dvorak)/Victor Babin, piano/Pablo Casals, cello/Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Rudolf Serkin, piano (Beethoven trios)/Zara Nelsova, cello/Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano (Haydn scena)/Brooks Smith, piano (Stravinsky)/Beveridge Webster, piano (Webern Schoenberg)/New York Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos (Beethoven)/Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Eduard van Beinum (Mendelssohn)/Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg (Berg Concerto)/Oakland Symphony Orchestra/Gerhard Samuel (Brahms Double Concerto)

Music & Arts CD-1223 (8 CDs) 77:33; 76:24; 76:36; 77:45; 74:45; 63:18; 68:33; 57:09
[Distr. by Albany] ****:

The career of Polish-born violinist Szymon Goldberg (1909-1993) would likely make an exciting movie subject, since it includes internship by the Japanese (with pianist Lili Kraus) during WW II, which involved his being shuffled among fourteen camps in two and a half years. One of the most consistently active musicians, Goldberg served as violinist, chamber ensemble participant, and conductor; in the last guise he introduced Haydn symphonies to many auditors with a reduced but not authentic-instruments orchestra in suave Haydn style. Goldberg eschewed the large romantic concerto repertory, only gravitating to Mendelssohn and Sibelius for their contribution, though no record of the Sibelius with Goldberg has surfaced.  Ever tasteful and modest in his musical persona, Goldberg played (from 1938 on) the 1730 “Baron Vitta” Guarnerius del Gesu, an instrument of sweet, focused tone and vibrancy, especially as Goldberg applied occasional old-world portato to his otherwise chaste effects. For the original edition of the Beethoven Concerto with Mitropoulos (14 January 1950), Goldberg performed on his “Liegnitz” Stradivarius. Only in the Bach Brandenburgs do we hear Goldberg’s efforts from the conductor’s podium; he prefers a concertante role, primus inter pares. The joyful elastic spirit of the D Major Concerto benefits from the concertino formed by Goldberg, Adriaaan Bonsel’s aerial flute, and pianist Marcia Curcio, a Schnabel pupil with a fluid, fluidly virtuosic approach. The D Minor arrangement of BWV 1060, the Concerto for Violin and Oboe from the Aldeburgh Festival (12  June 1960) enjoys lovely timbral balance between Goldberg and Stotijn, whose tone has the dry piercing resonance we associate with Heinz Holliger.

Collectors will note the presence of one commercial recording amidst the bevy of live broadcasts: the Schumann A Minor Sonata, Op. 105 (1 June 1953) made for American Decca with Artur Balsam appears at the request of Goldberg’s widow Miyoko Yamane-Goldberg (1939-2006), an intensely studied performance – deliberate, balanced, attentive to the often eerily subjective demands made by the composer. After an intensely introverted first movement, the Allegretto proceeds innocently, until the middle section’s passions.  The canonic filigree, sforzato, comes across cleanly and fervently in the last movement, especially as Balsam must articulate both F and A, tremolando. From two years prior (3 March 1951), Goldberg and Balsam realize a wonderfully poignant Debussy G Minor Sonata, Goldberg’s sliding rhythm quite evident, and Balsam’s tone ethereally liquid. “Fantasque et leger” asks Debussy of the second movement, and certainly Goldberg and Balsam remain faithful to this strange troubadour’s song. The last movement seems to echo Debussy’s keyboard “wind” pieces more than the French salon, Goldberg’s breezy line long and protean, the upper harmonics a swirl of magical colors. The Schubert Adagio and Rondo, from Tokyo (28 April 1966), is cut from fine silk, smooth as glass. The 1951 Dvorak Romantic Pieces with Balsam suffer some sonic degeneration, though the musicianship and stylistic sensitivity shine through. Had literary characters Nathan and Sophie access to Goldberg’s infinitely touching Melodie from Orfeo ed Eurydice (3 March 1951), they might have delayed their suicide, had Mr. Styron wanted it so. 


Disc 3 and Disc 4 provide the big-concertos contribution, opening with the 14 January 1950 collaboration with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic in the original edition of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The restitution of a few, generally beneficial cuts does little to alter the basic shape of the concerto, and Goldberg’s lean, precise articulation of the solo part, along with Mitropoulos’ fiery support, makes for a convincing performance. The rarity among these treasures is Goldberg’s appearance with legendary Canadian-born cellist Zara Nelsova (1918-2002) in the Brahms Double Concerto (5-7 December 1967) from Oakland under Gerhard Samuel (1924-2008). With her 1726 “Marquis de Corberon” Stradivarius, Nelsova makes elegant fluid lines appear in concert with Goldberg’s streamlined filigree to produce sensational Brahms dialogues, clearly inspiring the Oakland Symphony to more exalted heights. No other document of Nelsova in this rich broth exists. Despite some interference having crept into the transmission, the Andante breathes an irresistible repose. The Mendelssohn Concerto (4 September 1957) under Eduard van Beinum (1901-1959) from Usher Hall, Edinburgh enjoys an idiosyncratically powerful, immediate presence, Goldberg’s violin projecting a clear effortless transparency of sound, the drive akin to that Nathan Milstein.  The purity of Goldberg’s incantation of the first movement’s secondary melody in G Major remains a marvel of vocal inflection. The cadenza and coda-transition prove highly personalized, often “deconstructing” into components in the manner worthy of the Webern Goldberg plays on the last of these discs. The last movement sizzles so spectacularly, I cannot imagine how the Scottish audience stayed in their seats long enough to hear it all.

The joyous Mozart D Major with his own Netherlands Chamber Orchestra reveals a chaste, articulate, intelligent design; and Goldberg plays the cadenza of Joseph Joachim. For the subsidiary riffs in the first movement, Goldberg takes a dynamic mezzo-forte/piano that captures our fancy. The tempo of the lovely Andante is a mite slow to my taste, but I favor the slightly accelerated realization given in the Jiri Novak/Vaclav Talich rendition. The Rondo captures a maturity in the writing of the eighteen-year-old composer we often miss, a seamless agility in all parts, refreshed, brilliantly executed. Prior to this Music & Arts release of the Berg Concerto with William Steinberg at the Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh (28 November 1952), I knew only the collaboration with Rafael Kubelik from 1960 at the Concertgebouw. Goldberg makes the first movement as appealing as I have ever heard, softening the tissue with gentle applications of touch and phraseology, and Steinberg adds to the lyrical dimension in a work that can often intimidate in its austerity and academic means. The eerie qualities and visceral poignancy remain fixed, however; and we still feel like we have entered a painting by Edvard Munch or Gustav Moreau on the subject of life, death, and transfiguration.

The Beethoven trios have been available prior via M&A’s tributes to Pablo Casals and the Prades Music Festival. Exquisite articulation of parts for the Kakadu Variations (18 June 1954) with Casals and Serkin, the basis of the melody derived from a singspiel by Mueller, The Sisters of Prague. The G Minor/G Major alternations move with inflamed intensity between the two sections, Adagio assai and Allegretto (the variants proper). Canny syncopations mark the Allegretto of the E-flat Major Trio, Op. 70, No. 2, in sparkling sound.  The Geister Trio on Disc 6 (14 June 1954) has Horszowski at the keyboard, so the musical professionalism and intensities remain consistently high. In the expressive Largo movement, we can hear Casals’ off-key singing of the powerful melodic line. But most curious is Victor Babin’s Konzerstueck (11 February 1966) on Disc 5, a twenty-minute work of deliberate seriousness, austere and clearly defined by sections with different meters. The writing occasionally sprints, toccata-fashion, then breaks into a fierce march, percussive in the manner of Prokofiev. A nocturne forms the middle section, marked by repeated figures in descending chromatics that opt for canonic treatment, almost an homage to the Franck Sonata. A solo cadenza for Goldberg evokes a fiery interchange for the forceful coda. The Haydn C Major (28 April 1966) from Hibiya Public Hall, Tokyo features Goldberg’s directing a surprisingly electric and large-scaled interpretation from the solo the Netherland Chamber Orchestra with harpsichord continuo. Awesome technique commands the last movement, a series of flurries in altering registration and bow-effects, the music never moving at less than frenetic speed.

The Haydn component of the set concludes with the venerable Elizabeth Schwarzkopf collaborating in an extended, Italianate concert scena from the 1958 (25 June) Holland Festival. The final section, following any number of high coloratura flourishes, breaks out in a dark Allegro reminiscent of the terramoto movement from The 7 Last Words of Christ on the Cross.

The last two discs perfectly complement each other, in both form and style. The Bach G Minor Sonata and D Minor Partita (1970) from the Maida Vale Studios, London, chaste and thoughtfully molded, have their counterpart in the Bartok Solo Sonata (11 August 1965) from the Aspen Music Festival, a performance that rivals Menuhin. A sweetly blended Sonata No. 6 in A by Beethoven (14 June 1954) from Prades pairing Goldberg with the indestructible Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993), finds equally compelling neo-Classic antiphons in Stravinsky’s Duo Concertante (18 July 1968), again from Aspen, this time in collaboration with the immortal Brooks Smith (1912-2000), Heifetz’s preferred accompanist. Finally, the Second Viennese School receives its due from Goldberg, working assiduously in the deceptively poignant Four Pieces of Anton Webern from Aspen (20 July 1966)  with Beveridge Webster (1908-1999), noted for his brilliance in French music. With the performance of Schoenberg’s 1949 Fantasia–a curiously “classical” piece despite its dodecaphonic basis–Goldberg has traversed much of the canon of great violin literature in his extraordinarily fertile style.

–Gary Lemco

 




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