Jascha Heifetz has been called the first and greatest of all virtuosos. Critics agree when RCA Victor once dubbed him The Violinist of the Century . Now all of Heifetz s stereo recordings are being issued together in a single Sony Classical box of 24 CDs, coupled by composer and remastered from the original analogue tapes in 24-bit / 192 kHz and DSD® quality. Heifetz authority John Maltese provides a new introductory essay.
Less than two weeks after his sensational US debut at Carnegie Hall, a 16-year-old Russian émigré named Jascha Heifetz protégé of the legendary St. Petersburg violin teacher Leopold Auer and already acclaimed in Europe made his first Victor recordings. Some 40 years later he began re-recording much of the mainstream violin repertoire for RCA Victor in stereo. These performances find Heifetz at his most intense and glowing, wrote Gramophone in its March 1988 obituary, and their continued release on CD is building up a stunning three-dimensional sound-picture of Heifetz at his peak.
In warhorses like the Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos, his stereo LPs set new standards. Reviewing a previous reissue, ClassicsToday exclaimed: Heifetz and Munch play the [Beethoven] with a classical poise and chiseled perfection. It goes without saying that Heifetz s flawless intonation and ear-catching articulation leave most other players in the shade. As for the Mendelssohn, this is simply the greatest performance yet recorded. The work was made for Heifetz: Mendelssohn was himself a romantic of classical restraint and created a virtuoso showpiece that requires total control over the instrument. Another typical Heifetz review, this time from Fanfare on his Bruch and Vieuxtemps: There was simply no one who could play this florid Romantic music like Heifetz ... This is the finest recording of Bruch s masterpieces ever made in terms of both performance and sound. As the Gramophone obituary also noted, it is doubtful if any other international soloist lavished so much time and energy on chamber music, notably in the concerts and recordings with cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, which began in 1961 and are documented in this collection. Heifetz s repertoire also featured a vast array of show-stopping virtuoso pieces and his own brilliantly effective transcriptions. Those are also generously represented in this box set.
The great violinist s last session was a live recording of his last public performance, on 23 October 1972 in Los Angeles. Here it is complete on two CDs. Critic Tim Page has written that the program in both its planning and its execution was not markedly different from one Heifetz might have offered decades before. From the beginning of the Franck Sonata rapt, centered, directly linear in its phrasing, immaculately aristocratic in its bearing there can be no mistaking the artist ... There is something noble about Heifetz s constancy. Few performing artists have exercised such meticulous control over their creative lives.