LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Double Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Yehudi Menuhin (violin), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); LSO/Colin Davis, ECO/George Malcolm
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4050-2 ADD
Even the most legendary musicians have their off-days, and Yehudi Menuhin had some particularly bad ones. To realise this, you only need listen to the first movement of the Brahms Double Concerto, recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1964. Rostropovich plays marvellously, but his entries – noble, eloquent and powerful – are met by some fairly appalling sounds from the solo violinist. Menuhin scratches, misses his intonation and sounds, frankly, terrified. Some messy playing in the orchestral strings adds to the fatal flaws. Menuhin fares better in the Mendelssohn; here there is nervous tension in large doses, but real poetry too, the technique is more comfortable and the delicate quality of his tone suits this mercurial work.
The Bach, recorded at the 1963 Aldeburgh Festival, is somewhat dull and stodgy on Menuhin’s part, though the overall interpretation is given shape and atmosphere by Malcolm’s conducting. Live recording sometimes works well as a medium for capturing the thrill of a performance, but the performance has to be memorable and at least slightly reliable to warrant it. Though this disc forms a true warts-and-all portrait of Menuhin, it remains to be confirmed whether such a recording, Mendelssohn aside, will bear repeated listening. Jessica Duchen