Beethoven, Bach, Paganini, Falla & Nov‡cek

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Beethoven,Falla & Novácek,Paganini
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Nathan Milstein
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Bach, Paganini, Falla & Novácek
PERFORMER: Nathan Milstein (violin), Ernest Lush (piano); LPO/Adrian Boult
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4151-2
Unlike some old-school violinists, Nathan Milstein doesn’t hang about in the first movement of Beethoven’s Concerto and, propelled by a vigorous opening tutti from Boult, he makes a no-nonsense entry. His tone is focused, though the rather boxy mono recording gives it a slight edge, and his phrasing and articulation are always clean. Not clinical though: there are always little touches of rubato, and he slows down for the lyrical section in the minor in the middle of the movement, but not so much as to pull the music out of shape. Between them, he and Boult also have a clear idea of when the orchestra carries the interest and when it’s the soloist. In the second movement Milstein is a little too aggressive for Beethoven’s dolce marking, but that’s obviously how he sees the music – he did the same in Pittsburgh 13 years earlier. Here I’d prefer the softer grain of Leonid Kogan (Testament), or the sweetness of Heifetz, another direct player. Milstein does soften later, but doesn’t achieve the absolute hush in the central decrescendo that Menuhin manages with Furtwängler (Testament). He’s back on the tracks in the finale, where he has the only opportunity in the work for something approaching display, though this is something that Heifetz throws off even more easily, and in terms of consistency his is the historic performance I’d go for. The solo items here have already appeared on an EMI Classic Archive DVD, and among them two Paganini caprices are especially engaging for their combination of warmth and virtuosity. And it’s good to hear Milstein’s voice in the interview, with his reminiscences of Horowitz and Glazunov. Martin Cotton

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