Classical Reissue Reviews

Johanna Martzy = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; : Violin Concerto No. 3; BEETHOVEN: Romances in G Major & F Major – Johanna Martzy, violin/ Philharmonia Orch./ Wolfgang Sawallisch/ Paul Kletzki (Romances) – Testament

Previously unissued recordings by the legendary Romanian virtuoso Johanna Martzy extend a limited discography for the edification of those who relish her superb instrumentalism.

Published on February 20, 2013

Johanna Martzy = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; : Violin Concerto No. 3; BEETHOVEN: Romances in G Major & F Major – Johanna Martzy, violin/ Philharmonia Orch./ Wolfgang Sawallisch/ Paul Kletzki (Romances) – Testament

Johanna Martzy = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64; : Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216; BEETHOVEN: Romance in G Major, Op. 40;  Romance in F Major, Op. 50 – Johanna Martzy, violin/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Wolfgang Sawallisch/ Paul Kletzki (Romances) – Testament SBT 1483, 68:03 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Among the most sought-after recorded artists, Romanian violinist Johanna Martzy (1924-1979) has more documentation of her aristocratic art in performances from Kingsway Hall, London with the Philharmonia Orchestra. For the breezy Mozart G Major Concerto and the Mendelssohn Concerto, Martzy has the relatively young talent of Wolfgang Sawallisch (b. 1923), who would soon extend his EMI legacy to include superlative work with horn player Dennis Brain in the two concertos by Richard Strauss, along with a composer-supervised performance of Carmina Burana.

The Mozart Concerto (9-10 June 1954) emanates the spirit of youth and gentility at once, more musical than virtuosic, but eminently vivacious and rife with technical ease and polish. Always capable of drawing a poignant singing line from her G and D strings, Marty shines in the exquisite Adagio movement, among Mozart’s first “heavenly” ascents in his violin repertory. How much Martzy reminds us that Mozart’s adagios take much of their cue from Gluck; and here, especially, we feel in the hazy accompaniment of strings the aura cast in that composer’s Orfeo.  The last movement Rondo: Allegro possesses a gentle urgency, made utterly charming by the gracious tone of Martzy’s 1733 Bergonzi instrument. Poise, elegance of line, and sensitive interaction with her conductor mark this serenely confident performance, the cadenzas and transition passages of which Martzy executes with self-effacing élan, often rendered in ‘galant style’ in the last movement.

Martzy turns up the emotional heat for the Mendelssohn Concerto from the same session as the Mozart. The first movement has her in blazing multiple stops and her patented upward trill that can cast a flautino tone as light as a feather. Always rhythmically fascinating, Martzy negotiates slight adjustments in rubato worth their emotional weight in burnished gold. The ferociously-driven tempos in the faster episodes will remind some of Nathan Milstein and his own hegemony in matters of pacing. Sawallisch explodes to the rest that invites Martzy’s first movement cadenza, where his “gypsy” approach adds a visceral luster to the proceedings. Her reprise of the movement’s second subject melts the heart at every turn. A rush to judgment for the coda has us suspended on a single bassoon note, and Martzy enters with the plaintive melody that will exploit the major-minor tonalities. Again, Marty’s power in double-stopped passages digs deeply into the music and our aesthetic sensibilities. After the dozen bars of introductory material, the brilliant Allegro molto vivace allows the eminently suave Martzy to negotiate those elfin figures in vibrant motion of which Mendelssohn remained a past master.

For the two charming Beethoven Romances (22-23 December 1953), Martzy has for her reliable accompanist the esteemed Polish conductor Paul Kletzki (1900-1973), with whom she recorded the Mendelssohn and Brahms concertos for EMI.  Martzy’s hefty tone and studied phrasing elevate the two Romances above their usual status as “sketches” for the Larghetto movement of the Violin Concerto. The captivating intimate sincerity of her expressive powers, so immediate and resonant, make it enigmatic that the release in the West of Martzy’s beguiling readings occurs only now.

—Gary Lemco




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