SZIGETI The European Columbia Recordings, Volume 1

This week’s release by violinist Joseph Szigeti is the first of a series which restores to circulation some of the most difficult-to-find recordings by one of the 20th Century’s greatest violinists. These recordings – particularly the ones made in the 1920s and ‘30s – represent Szigeti’s playing at its peak. In general, his later recordings were marked by slower tempi, a noticeably wider vibrato, and the aforementioned intonation issues. These earlier 78s, by contrast, are largely free of such concerns, and also feature much repertoire he never re-recorded.

Our first volume focuses on Baroque and Classical repertoire. Among the works he recorded at his very first session in 1908 had been the Preludio from Bach’s Partita No 3; and Szigeti continued to champion the composer and contemporaries like Handel and Tartini throughout his career. The Bach Double Concerto was recorded with Szigeti’s elder Hungarian compatriot, Carl Flesch, who was esteemed as both a violinist and pedagogue. The Mozart Concerto was the first of three classic disc collaborations with Sir Thomas Beecham.