LABELS: Allegro Films
ALBUM TITLE: Natahn Milstein: In Portrait
WORKS: Violin Sonata (Kreutzer); Partita in D minor, BWV 1004 – Chaconne
PERFORMER: Nathan Milstein (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: A 06CN D (NTSC system; LPCM stereo; 16:9/4:3 picture ratio)
This television film is built around a 1986 recital in Stockholm, when Milstein was 82 – his last public concert before an injury to his left hand forced his retirement. The music acts as a backbone, holding together comments by Milstein, prompted gently by Nupen, or more boisterously by Zukerman. It’s very slow-paced: Nupen’s introductory remark, that there was so much wonderful material that the original commission for a single one-hour programme just had to be expanded to two programmes, smacks of self indulgence. Some sharper editing would have allowed all the information to be transmitted in a much shorter timespan. We could still know how his mother took him to St Petersburg, virtually abandoning his family; how Glazunov heard him and put him in the opera orchestra, where he played for Chaliapin; about his early and enduring musical friendships with Piatigorsky and Horowitz; and his views on conductors – Klemperer, Schalk and Furtwängler (for him the greatest). There are insights on technique versus musicianship, especially where it concerns fingering, which Milstein tended to change on the spur of the moment.
Or, in the case of that final recital, getting round pain in one of his fingers by planning new fingering for the whole programme. It’s amazing, then, that Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and Bach’s Chaconne, included as a supplement, are as effective as they are. As Milstein himself says of the Chaconne: ‘Not perfect, but the majority of it is very good.’ Martin Cotton