Search - Felix [1] Mendelssohn, Edouard Lalo, Camille Saint-Saens :: The Best of Mischa Elman

The Best of Mischa Elman
Felix [1] Mendelssohn, Edouard Lalo, Camille Saint-Saens
The Best of Mischa Elman
Genres: Pop, Classical


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Better an elderly Elman than . . .
Greedy Collector | IL, USA | 04/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am sorry I have to disagree with the other reviewer. Granted, Elman in his 60s isn't Elman in his 30s - or even in his magnificent 40s, for that matter. The sound can be a tiny bit wiry, the vibrato can sound a tiny bit tired, by comparison. Tempos are sometime on the excessively slow side, arguably. However, there is still a lot to enjoy here. Especially in slow movements, the Elman magic comes through strongly. I have a lot of Elman recordings, including earlier, more convincing versions of the Mendelssohn, so I basically bought this for the Khachaturian, which I believe is a splendid version. The only one recorded by Elman. Less flamboyant and "biting the strings" in the first movement, when compared to, say, Kogan, but incredibly, hauntingly beautiful in the slow movement. In fact, Elman, older as he is, exposes in all this repertoire a science of varying the intensity and frequency of his vibrato which younger, more athletic violinists of today - say, Shaham or Hahn - don't have. Sometimes he plays non vibrato, and the sound comes through like the sound a sad, tired bird still able to evoke wonders of beauty.

If you love Khachaturian's Concerto: far from being a version to sneer at, this one exposes in my opinion the most beautiful rendition of the slow movement on record."
The Violinist May Be Legendary, But This Recording Is Not
Robert Kirsch | 01/13/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Many consider Elman to be the supreme violinist of romanticism. And why not? His idiomatic rubato and unique, strong-armed tone leave a powerful mark on the ear. There is much to admire about Elman. His beliefs seem almost prophetic given the state of current celebrity-violinists. In his later years, Elman confided that "It seems to me...that many today play without heart. They plan in an impersonal style." This is a legitimate criticism of many modern violinist virtuosos, even the Sarah Changs and Hilary Hahns of the 21st century.

But ultimately this CD is profoundly unsatisfying. The hodgepodge of works here is anything but inspiring. I don't object to unknown or obscure composers. However, many of these works are pretty unsubstantial and seem randomly thrown together. They don't meld or flow from one track to the next. The piece by Gossec and the minuet in G are pretty enough, but they don't have the soulfulness of a good violin concerto. Achron's `Hebrew Melody' is one of the few highlights, and there are a few especially romantic pieces that offer twinges of emotion. The Khachaturian concerto is a strange choice, fraught with discordant rhythms. Mendelssohn's concerto is one of the better choices, however it is given poor company.

And for all Elman's appealing romanticism, he seems to try too much. He sacrifices nuance and variety for an overpowered, melodramatic tone that treats one piece the same as the next. This becomes tedious and I don't think it does justice to the composer's intent. Furthermore the Sarah Changs and Hilary Hahns surpass Elman in many ways. Their technique is flawless where the aging Elman here is enigmatic at best. In time Sarah Chang and others will likely develop their own styles more fully and find their heart's connection to the music. Finding heart shouldn't entail the sacrifice of technique and subtlety, as it does with Elman.

Unfortunately the sound quality is woefully inadequate. A general scratchiness of sound hampers this recording much more than Elman's still impressive playing. If you're desperately looking for a cocktail of music exhibiting Elman's unique romantic style, this CD may be worth a listen. Otherwise, though, look elsewhere for great violin music.