Search - Josef Bonime, Ernest Bloch, George Perlman :: Elman Plays Hebrew Melodies

Elman Plays Hebrew Melodies
Josef Bonime, Ernest Bloch, George Perlman
Elman Plays Hebrew Melodies
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Folk, World Music, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1


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Played with chic and beautiful tone, with the addition of fo
Discophage | France | 02/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Though apparently remembered only by the devotees of the Collector's Corner, Mischa Elman was one of the great fiddlers of the 20th century. Born near Kiev in 1891 in a Jewish family (ten years before Heifetz) and a child prodigy, he was trained first in Odessa, then in St Petersburg with the famous pedagogue Leopold Auer, teacher of such other violin luminaries as Heifetz, Milstein and Zimbalist. Elman later moved to the United States, and became an American citizen in 1923 - soon followed by Heifetz and Auer. The rising star of Heifetz, with his cooler, more "objective" and virtuosic style, somewhat nudged Elman out of the limelight of his earlier American years, but he was active until his death in 1967.

This program of Hebrew Melodies harks back then to Elman's early childhood years in Jewish Ukraine. As the previous commentator has remarked, in addition to the 9 Hebrew melodies the CD contains four additional and uncredited items. Strangely, access is denied from both websites indicated on the CD's back cover, so that's not were you are going to find the information missing on the CD's booklet.

The new CD actually reproduces the contents of an earlier Vanguard CD, OVC 8030, published in 1992 and more appropriately called "Mischa Elman Collection Volume 3, Hebraic & Russian Melodies" (Hebraic & Russian Melodies). The 9 Hebrew Melodies were recorded in 1962 and had two LP appearances, as Vanguard VRS 1099 and VSD 2137. The four uncredited pieces are (in the CD order) Joseph Sulzer's Sarabande, Cesar Espejo Airs Tziganes Op. 11, Melodie from Tchaikovsky's Souvenir d'un lieu cher Op. 42 No. 3 and Danse russe from Morceaux for Piano Op. 40. Tchaikovsky's Melodie and Sulzer's Sarabande were recorded in October 1959 and came originally on the "Misha Elman Jubilee Album", Vanguard Stereolab VSD-2048 (reissued on CD as SVC 125, Mischa Elman Jubilee Album), with various other trifles, while Tchaikovsky's Danse Russe and Espejo's Airs, recorded in October 1966, came on Vanguard VSD 71173, "The Art of Mischa Elman" with more encores by various others (now CD SVC-126, Art of Mischa Elman). So much for the facts.

The various origins account for the different sonic perspectives, with almost imperceptible tape hiss in the 1962 Hebrew recital, more of it in the 1959 recordings and sonorous piano in the 1966 pieces. But the violin tone always comes out clear and bright. Except for Bloch's Nigun - the second piece from his "Baal Shem, Three Pictures from Chassidic Life - the pieces are by essence unsubstantial trifles and their mostly plaintive, doleful mood doesn't allow for much diversity. But Elman plays them with charm and chic, beautiful tone throughout and fine support from Joseph Seiger.

And then there is Nigun. Now beware: this is not your everyday Nigun. Already the timings tell you that something special is in store - for the better or the worst: compare Elman's 7:29 to Grumiaux's 5:54 (Favorite Violin Encores), Stern's 5:59 (in his first recording from 1947, Isaac Stern Presents Encores) and 6:15 (in 1961, Hindemith, Copland: Violin Sonatas; Bloch: Violin Sonata; Baal shem), Aaron Rosand's 6:12 (Hebraic Legacies) or Elmar Oliveira's 6:38 (Elmar Oliveira plays Brahms, Strauss, Sarasate and others). Indeed, Elman takes a very broad view of Nigun and plays with big and husky tone. There are also exaggerated rubatos that even sound like quasi-fermatas on some held notes. Not that Elman is limp or dragging. He can play with plenty of snap, and his bow really digs into the strings, bringing a desperate intensity to the music and lending it the character not of the improvisation of the title, but of a lamenting invocation of God (or desperate cry at His absence). But Elman is so intent at wringing out as much expression from the notes as possible, and lingers so much over every note that he is not always technically secure: you need steel strings to sustain that kind of intensity and he doesn't always have that. Still this rendition is quite unique, making one sorely regret that Elman didn't record the complete set, and Bloch's other Jewish pieces (Abodah, Hebraic suite.. ) to boot.

But wait: unique? Not any more. There is a recent version by two obscure French artists, Clara Cernat and Denis Huillet, on an obscure French label, LA NUIT TRANSFIGUREE LNT 340108, that is very close in conception (and timing) to Elman, but more disciplined. It is not listed on this site, but you can find it on the French sister company, under ASIN 2913781195. It's worth seeking.

The CD booklet contains good, informative notes about the Hebrew pieces.
You get more than you bargained for
Arthur Leonard | New York, NY USA | 05/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Great remastering of classic Jewish-inspired violin recital by the master of mid-20th century schmaltz - but you get more than you expected, because there are 4 more tracks on the album that are not listed on the packaging! Somewhere between the A&R people and the production people, a communications gap opened up. Pop the disc into your computer if you have ipod software and you will find the titles and composers of the additional tracks. (Maybe they're not listed on the album because they are not Jewish-inspired music - two are by Tchaikovsky, after all.) But it's all worth hearing, and even more of a bargain with 20 minutes more music!"
Tremendous beauty
A techno geek | Kihei, Maui, HI USA | 01/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"OMG the pieces in this collection are sublimely beautiful! I've only just now really gotten to know Elman's playing, and I really love it, beyond the unsurpassed tone Elman is famous for, his poetry of expression.

If you listen closely to these tracks with headphones, you can hear occasional bits of dust --- the recording used LPs as the source! I would infer this means that sadly the original Vanguard tapes were lost; it was a labor of love to transfer them from LP sources. They did a great job --- sonically the CD is excellent. You have to really listen for the occasional dust sounds to notice them. I wish it were a DSD transfer on SACD though, because CDs just can't capture the complexity of the violin's tone.

I have to say that, the recordings of one of greatest violinists of the 20th Century should receive care and attention beyond what a barely surviving record company may provide. The Library of Congress is working to preserve the legacy of wax cylinder recordings, and a broader program of cataloging and preservation ought to be developed.

One very nice discovery is that the scores for 7 of the tracks can be found in the book Hebrew Melodies - For Violin & Piano."