BBC Legends – Nathan Milstein

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Partita in E, BWV1006 – Preludio
24 Caprices for solo violin, Op.1 – No.5 in A minor; No.11 in C
Falla arr. Kochánski
Suite populaire espagnole – Jota; Asturiana *
Perpetuum mobile *

Nathan Milstein (violin)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult

* Ernest Lush (piano)

Concerto recorded in the Royal Festival Hall, London on 29 September 1968; other items recorded in BBC Studios, London – on 9 June 1963 (Bach) and 22 September 1957

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: September 2004
BBCL 4151-2
Duration: 72 minutes

The timpani strokes opening the Beethoven are here rather ominous. The attention is grabbed. Sir Adrian Boult’s conducting of the orchestral exposition is lyrical and detailed and wide dynamic contrasts add just the right amount of tension to sustain this long movement and provide some dramatic anticipation of the soloist’s first entry. Russian/American violinist Nathan Milstein (1903-92) does not disappoint. His is a lyrically charged reading, one full of incident, sweet asides, and the most natural and engaging volatility. A real performance, one caught on the wing, tactfully and sympathetically accompanied. There’s plenty of muscle and emotional ‘lift’, too.

The mono recording is excellent, full and well balanced; re-mastering engineer Paul Baily has avoided, thankfully, any hint of ‘digital murkiness’ or any other tonal degradation that can be a concomitant of over-zealous processing. One can enjoy the music without distraction, and this is a rendition to treasure. Milstein plays his own cadenzas, quite showy but not self-aggrandising. He is generously expressive in the slow movement but not self-indulgent. The finale sparkles: rhythmically vital but not ruthless.

As encores, the Bach movement is as poised as it is tantalising, and Milstein absorbs the extraordinary difficulty of the Paganini Caprices and makes music with them. The Falla pieces have that old-world, unforced richness of violin tone that sometimes seems a lost art – ‘Asturiana’ is wonderfully sultry – and Nováček’s Perpetuum mobile is, once more, made shapely and articulate rather than an excuse for razzle-dazzle. Ernest Lush is the epitome of the selfless accompanist.

To complete a CD documenting great artistry, there’s also an interesting conversation with Milstein courtesy of John Amis dating from 1991.

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