Yehudi Menuhin – Early Recordings (Naxos)

0 of 5 stars

Symphonie Espagnole
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 *

Yehudi Menuhin (violin)

Orchestre des Concerts Colonne *
Paris Symphony Orchestra
George Enescu

Recorded in 1933 and 1938

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: May 2003
CD No: NAXOS 8.110967

Naxos is doing an excellent service on behalf of performers of yesteryear – and its budget price-point is an incentive to ’dip-in’.

Yehudi Menuhin was a genuine prodigy. Born in 1916, as a teenager he studied with George Enescu – composer, violinist and conductor – who was a considerable influence on the young Menuhin. It’s good to have this collection linked by Enescu conducting all three works, two of them, the Chausson and Lalo, made in 1933 when Menuhin was 17 – when, it might be noted, he had already made his famous recording of Elgar’s concerto with the composer conducting (also available on Naxos Historical).

The 1938 Mendelssohn is superb – sweet-toned and lyrical with plenty of eloquent expression and total identification; a musical focus too that spans the concerto’s length and completely disguises the need then to record discontinuously over 4-minute sides. A measure of Menuhin’s integration is the first movement cadenza, which here is a natural development of the music rather than being an interlude for display. The ’Andante’ is maybe just a tad over-shaped but it’s from the heart. The Finale sparkles; the flute ’shadowing’ the soloist in the first statement is an exemplar of the teamwork throughout this performance.

The earlier recordings include a complete Symphonie espagnole (that is all five movements), which was very rare at this time and continued to be so for a couple more decades. Once again, we hear a musician at work and there are countless felicities of phrasing that bring out Lalo’s creativity more clearly than a violinist intent on display tends to do. There’s some very considered conducting from Enescu; he reaches parts than some other conductors do not! In a performance like this, one is persuaded to upgrade one’s assessment of the music.

Chausson’s Poème, recorded the day after the Lalo sessions, begins with a hauntingly brooding introduction; throughout, Enescu and Menuhin forge a journey of discovery, the soloist’s cadenzas a conveyer of real soul, the music floats to havens of declaration. Rather special.

Ward Marston’s transfers are first-class – highly recommended as top recordings of this repertoire as opposed to being ’historical’ alternatives. Good too to be able to hear Parisian orchestras from this time – truly a bygone era in terms of tone and style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content