Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; Dvorak, et al / Perlman, et al Import
The young Itzhak Perlman was as impressively virtuoso as the more mature and thoughtful artist he has become; these first versions of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos are flashy and passionate, and none the worse for that. Both are, in a real sense, works about showing off--Tchaikovsky was creating a showcase for a performer he rather liked and Sibelius making his way in the world as a soloist--and there is something to be said for performances which remind us of that. Leinsdorf. always a generous conductor when working with soloists, gives Perlman his head; these are big performances which find the right balance between speed and delicacy. These are, after all, works in which the violin engages in dialogue with the full resources of the Romantic orchestra as an equal partner. The Dvorak Romance makes an attractive filler, intelligently placed to clear the palate between two rich works.--Roz Kaverney
For me, Leinsdorf is always a problem. Here, as usual, he keeps strict time and is routine in every respect. He shares half the blame for the low-key first movement of the Tchaikovsky, which really needs fire and passion, not caution. But Perlman isn't exactly ablaze, either, as marvelously well as he plays.
The Sibelius concerto has a more important orchestral part, so we sorely miss a Rattle, Muti, or Sinopoli on the podium, just to mention the conductors who support Nigel Kennedy, Gidon Kremer, and Gil Shaham so incisively on their recordings. The violin concerto is in Sibelius's ripest romantic style, deeply influenced by Tchaikovsky, but if anything Leinsdorf is more recessive here. The Adagio is taken fairly quickly, however, which is a help in sustaining interest if you're going to be this literal. The finale begs for more energy from the orchestra, but Perlman breaks loose a bit and gives a gripping acocunt of the solo part.
If you want to hear the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos played with emphasis on tonal beauty and control, this is a five-star CD. But for me, the only listener who would be thrilled by it is a violin teacher.
Perhaps most appealing about the High Performance release to those collectors familiar only with the previous Red Seal and Gold Seal releases of the Tchaikovsky and Dvorak is the refurbishment of the sound. The lps' sound was terrible - muffled and distorted. The first cd release on RCA's Papillion series miraculously cured the sonic ills, and High Performance doesn't improve much upon that earlier issue. But the Perlman/Leinsdorf/Dvorak piece is new to cd, and it may tempt some collectors to replace the Papillion with the fuller High Performance cd.
This release on "HP" discs corrects some of the defects of the early vinyl releases. The sound is now clear and vividly detailed, with a nice sense of space and weight, faithfully capturing the BSO's gorgeous sound in Symphony Hall under Leinsdorf. The soloist is front and center, but still with some sense of perspective and balance within the sonic image. There is some overloading in the loudest climaxes, however, and quite a bit of analog tape noise, particularly in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky, which the noise of vinyl covered, but the CD makes quite noticeable.