|Yehudi Menuhin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Bela Bartok|
The Violinist [Box Set]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Listen to Samples
Mostly Magnificent Menuhin, with a Few Reservations
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 01/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The recent trend toward classical box sets focusing on the performer instead of the composer (see my reviews of the various DG/Decca "Original Masters" sets) continues with EMI's new "Yehudi Menuhin - The Violinist." Sure EMI's past sets have showcased individual performances by Samson Francois, Eugen Jochum and Rudolf Kempe to name a few, but it was always under the heading of a given composer's works, and in the cases mentioned above, to Chopin's piano pieces, Bruckner's Symphonies and Strauss' Orchestral Works respectively. Therefore, this Menuhin collection is the first of EMI's "Budget Box Sets" to showcase a performer playing the works of a variety of composers.
As Menuhin was an EMI recording artist for an incredible 68 years (1931-99), his performances for the label number in the hundreds. With so much music from which to choose, this 10-disc set aims, according to the liner notes, "to highlight some of those alternative versions, including recordings that have not been easily available since the days of LP and others that have never previously appeared on CD." Therefore, the obvious mainstream, easily attainable recordings are omitted here -- for example, the Beethoven/Mendelssohn VCs with Furtwangler, the Elgar VC with the composer conducting, and the Bruch/Mendelssohn VCs with Susskind and Kurtz.
However, a lot of this material has been on disc before on titles which the serious collector most likely already owns. Most of the Bach is currently available as part of the Bach "Budget Box Series" title. The Bruch, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Vivaldi VCs were all available in the now out-of-print 2CD EMI Seraphim series. The Elgar and the Walton are still available in the "British Composers" series. And perhaps most annoyingly, the previously unpublished Beethoven VC and Tchaikovsky "Serenade melancolique" (available as a single disc), and the Beethoven Romance No. 2 (available on an EMI Encore title) were both reissued just a few months back.
But let's focus on the positive, which are the other rare performances, the most significant being the never before reissued 1954 performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 with John Pritchard and the Philharmonia. Other elusive recordings include Viuextemps and Paganini VCs with Fistoulari, Lalo and Saint-Saens works with Goossens, and excellent Berg and Bartok accounts with Boulez. Though I'm delighted at their inclusion, of lesser importance is a 1965 Bartok VC No. 2 with Dorati -- his mono EMI with Furtwangler and an earlier account with Dorati on Mercury Living Presence are far superior. Also, neither the Sibelius (Boult, 1955) nor Nielsen (Woldike, 1952) Concertos are truly Menuhin's cups of tea.
My last complaint has to do with the packaging. I know I'm being rather trite but it seems that EMI has taken the "slim" out of slim, paper-sleeved box sets with their latest batch of releases. Both this title and the new box of Liszt Orchestral Works by Masur are noticeably thicker than previous EMI sets featuring a similar number of discs. A minor point, but us serious classical collectors need every centimeter of space on our increasingly crowded CD shelves, not to mention the amount of wasted packaging.
Overall though, despite the fact that "Yehudi Menuhin - The Violinist" is not as essential a reissue as its counterparts in the "Original Masters" series, it is a delightful set that most collectors will thoroughly enjoy."