HEIFETZ, PIATIGORSKY The Chamber Concerts (1961) - PACM108

This album is included in the following sets:

HEIFETZ, PIATIGORSKY The Chamber Concerts (1961) - PACM108

Regular price €0.00 €30.00 Sale

Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak CD shipments will take longer than usual to arrive. Shipments to most major customer countries are available, though this is subject to changes out of our control at any time, and we will contact you if we are unable to ship your CDs. Note that our CDs are made to order and there may be a short delay between ordering and shipment.

Regular price €0.00 €28.00 Sale

Overview

MOZART String Quintet No. 4
FRANCK Piano Quintet
BRAHMS String Sextet No. 2
MENDELSSOHN String Octet

Stereo studio recordings, 1961
Total duration: 1hr 59:05

Leonard Pennario  piano
Jascha Heifetz - Israel Baker  violins
Arnold Belnick - Joseph Stepansky  violins
William Primrose - Virginia Majewski  violas
Gregor Piatigorsky - Gabor Rejto  cellos

This set contains the following albums:

"There has never been anything like this before in recorded chamber music...

The prospect of great virtuosi playing chamber music together, either for relaxation or for gainful employment, is by no means new; but the Kreisler-Rachmaninov duo never expanded to include piano quartets and quintets, nor did the Thibaud-Casals-Cortot Trio. Both these ensembles gave a great deal of pleasure, but they were somewhat inflexible. The advantage of the Pilgrimage Concerts is that every single item chosen for recording differs in scoring from its fellows; the octet and sextet are for strings alone, and the three quintets are for different combinations of instruments: Franck's is for piano and string quartet, Mozart's is for two violins, two violas, and 'cello. Heifetz and Piatigorsky, the ultra-violet and infra-red of this brilliant musical spectrum, have gathered around them a magnificent group of players some of whose names are already well known to connoisseurs. Neither William Primrose nor Leonard Pennario need introduction, but a brief word about the remaining five may not be out of place.

Israel Baker, a native of Chicago, played under Toscanini in the NBC Symphony and now leads the Paramount Studio orchestra besides leading an active life as soloist and conductor. He has played chamber music informally with Heifetz, Primrose and Piatigorsky for the last five or six years, and carries out his difficult task in this album with great distinction. Arnold Belnick is a New Yorker who has taught violin and chamber music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Baltimore, and now lives in Los Angeles. Joseph Stepansky (who, like Belnick, appears only in the Octet) is a former member of the Fine Arts Quartet and the Hollywood String Quartet. Playing second viola to Primrose is Virginia Majewski, a graduate of the Eastman School and Curtis Institute, now principal viola in the MGM Studio Orchestra. Gabor Rejto, Hungarian-born 'cellist, was a member of the Lener and Gordon String Quartets before settling in Southern California, at whose University he heads the string department.

Playing through these discs is an awe-inspiring experience. After years of making do with ensembles with a weak member here or there, waiting for exposed passages in octaves that never sound quite in tune, it is sheer relief to listen to and enjoy performances that are technically as perfect as possible, musically as sincere as one could wish for. Inevitably, the tonal personalities of Heifetz and Piatigorsky dominate the scene, but anyone who thinks the other players are passengers should try the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's Octet, surely one of the trickiest pieces of music to synchronise and balance in the entire chamber music repertory. But the entire work is a joy to hear from the first notes to the last. Mendelssohn wrote it with his violin teacher Eduard Rietz in mind, and the concerto-like first violin part in Heifetz's hands loses no time in getting into orbit. For sheer breath-taking brilliance, utter ease and naturalness of phrasing, and magical control of timbre, this performance is unique and unrivalled. I guarantee that when you have played it once, you will not believe your ears and will want to start right again at the beginning - that is, if you can resist the Mozart on the other side..."

Excerpts from review in The Gramophone by D.S., November 1962 - reproduced in full online



I can add little to the above review except to say that I'm sure the reviewer would appreciate the quite remarkable improvements in sound quality that have been possible with these XR remasters, lifting a distinct sonic veil from these near-60-year-old recordings and holding them up to a fabulous new light.

Andrew Rose

HEIFETZ & PIATIGORSKY - The Chamber Concerts


Disc One

MOZART  String Quintet No. 4 in G minor, K.516
1. 1st mvt. - Allegro  (9:04)
2. 2nd mvt. - Menuetto and Trio. Allegretto  (4:29)
3. 3rd mvt. - Adagio ma non troppo  (8:20)
4. 4th mvt. - Adagio - Allegro  (8:39)

Jascha Heifetz - Israel Baker  violins
William Primrose - Virginia Majewski  violas
Gregor Piatigorsky  cello
Recorded 29/30 August 1961


FRANCK  Piano Quintet in F minor
5. 1st mvt. - Molto moderato quasi lento  (14:23)
6. 2nd mvt. - Lento, con molto sentimento  (8:11)
7. 3rd mvt. - Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco  (8:15)

Leonard Pennario  piano
Jascha Heifetz - Israel Baker  violins
William Primrose  viola
Gregor Piatigorsky  cello
Recorded 21/22 August 1961


Disc Two

BRAHMS  String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36
1. 1st mvt. - Allegro non troppo  (8:39)
2. 2nd mvt. - Scherzo. Allegro non troppo - Presto giocoso  (6:36)
3. 3rd mvt. - Poco Adagio  (7:03)
4. 4th mvt. - Poco Allegro  (7:17)

Jascha Heifetz - Israel Baker  violins
William Primrose - Virginia Majewski  violas
Gregor Piatigorsky - Gabor Rejto  cellos
Recorded 28/29 August 1961


MENDELSSOHN  String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20
5. 1st mvt. - Allegro moderato con fuoco  (12:46)
6. 2nd mvt. - Andante  (5:35)
7. 3rd mvt. - Scherzo. Allegro leggierissimo  (4:19)
8. 4th mvt. - Presto  (5:26)

Jascha Heifetz - Israel Baker  violins
Arnold Belnick - Joseph Stepansky  violins
William Primrose - Virginia Majewski  violas
Gregor Piatigorsky - Gabor Rejto  cellos
Recorded 24/25 August 1961


XR remastering by  Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky
Recorded at RCA Studios, Hollywood, USA

Total duration: 1hr 59:05
CD1: 61:23    CD2: 57:42

The Gramophone, November 1962

When stereo came in, chamber music all but went out. Progress in technical spheres spelt near disaster for the loftier, quieter, and more intimate kinds of music without which true musicians cannot really live. Cobbett knew this because of a subtle sixth sense, and it was he who both extolled and expounded "the chamber music life" in an absorbing article (so entitled) in his great cyclopaedic survey, now happily in print again. Fortunately, musical fashions change as do most others, and a special release of this kind, comprising five masterpieces interpreted by an unrivalled team of musicians, may well contribute to a revival of interest in a field of friendly artistic endeavour that has too long been considered merely esoteric . Chamber music is more than esoteric: it offers experiences, even to the passive listener unable to play the one note in Purcell's five-part Fantasia, which are absolutely basic and indispensable.

So, if you are nauseated by yet another version of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony or Brahms's No. 2, sample by way of a change, the Octet in E flat or the Sextet in G. If Franck's Symphony bores you, listen to this recording of the Piano Quintet and get to know the real Cesar Auguste. You may tire, in time, of Mozart's G minor Symphony and Schubert's Unfinished, but the chances are that you will want to play these performances of the G minor Quintet and the two-'cello Quintet until the records are worn out.

The appeal lies in the works and in the performers, whose concerts at the Pilgrimage Theatre, Hollywood, in August of last year were referred to by the press as "a string summit meeting". The prospect of great virtuosi playing chamber music together, either for relaxation or for gainful employment, is by no means new; but the Kreisler-Rachmaninov duo never expanded to include piano quartets and quintets, nor did the Thibaud-Casals-Cortot Trio. Both these ensembles gave a great deal of pleasure, but they were somewhat inflexible. The advantage of the Pilgrimage Concerts is that every single item chosen for recording differs in scoring from its fellows; the octet and sextet are for strings alone, and the three quintets are for different combinations of instruments: Franck's is for piano and string quartet, Mozart's is for two violins, two violas, and 'cello, while Schubert's calls for two violins, viola, and two 'cellos. Five works, five textures. Heifetz and Piatigorsky, the ultra-violet and infra-red of this brilliant musical spectrum, have gathered around them a magnificent group of players some of whose names are already well known to connoisseurs. Neither William Primrose nor Leonard Pennario need introduction, but a brief word about the remaining five may not be out of place.

Israel Baker, a native of Chicago, played under Toscanini in the NBC Symphony and now leads the Paramount Studio orchestra besides leading an active life as soloist and conductor. He has played chamber music informally with Heifetz, Primrose and Piatigorsky for the last five or six years, and carries out his difficult task in this album with great distinction. Arnold Belnick is a New Yorker who has taught violin and chamber music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Baltimore, and now lives in Los Angeles. Joseph Stepansky (who, like Belnick, appears only in the Octet) is a former member of the Fine Arts Quartet and the Hollywood String Quartet. Playing second viola to Primrose is Virginia Majewski, a graduate of the Eastman School and Curtis Institute, now principal viola in the MGM Studio Orchestra. Gabor Rejto, Hungarian-born 'cellist, was a member of the Lener and Gordon String Quartets before settling in Southern California, at whose University he heads the string department.

Playing through these discs is an awe-inspiring experience. After years of making do with ensembles with a weak member here or there, waiting for exposed passages in octaves that never sound quite in tune, it is sheer relief to listen to and enjoy performances that are technically as perfect as possible, musically as sincere as one could wish for. Inevitably, the tonal personalities of Heifetz and Piatigorsky dominate the scene, but anyone who thinks the other players are passengers should try the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's Octet, surely one of the trickiest pieces of music to synchronise and balance in the entire chamber music repertory. But the entire work is a joy to hear from the first notes to the last. Mendelssohn wrote it with his violin teacher Eduard Rietz in mind, and the concerto-like first violin part in Heifetz's hands loses no time in getting into orbit. For sheer breath-taking brilliance, utter ease and naturalness of phrasing, and magical control of timbre, this performance is unique and unrivalled. I guarantee that when you have played it once, you will not believe your ears and will want to start right again at the beginning - that is, if you can resist the Mozart on the other side. This G minor Quintet demands a more equal display of talent than the Octet, and this it duly receives under the guidance of Heifetz. If he adopts a tempo rather faster than the one usually chosen for the first Allegro, there is a corresponding intensity and urgency by which the flow of the music seems to benefit. The muted strings in the slow movement offer sonorities that are both rare and ravishing, besides being wonderfully well balanced internally and from the microphone angle. Something of the simplicity and gaiety of the finale is sacrificed in the interests of sheer bravura, though the speed may have been dictated by other than musical factors. No less than 30' 03" of music appear on this side of the disc (the Mendelssohn runs for 28' 05') and the players may possibly have been warned not to waste too much time. Germain Prevost, viola player of the Pro Arte Quartet, once told me that their performance of the Scherzo in the Franck Quartet was reduced from 5 minutes to 41, or thereabouts, when they recorded it!

The Brahms G major Sextet, full of harmonic felicities characteristic of the composer's younger days, needs exactly the kind of performance it gets here: strength and suppleness, moments of tenderness and meditation, or (as Brahms's friend Billroth described it) "resembling Roman skies" - especially in the warm, hazy, relaxed slow movement. Again there is a profusion of fabulous teamwork, and a phenomenal accuracy of intonation which can only be marvelled at. In the Schubert Quintet, the two 'cellos of Piatigorsky and Rejto sing out their memorable themes in a manner that stresses the suave and rounded melodic phrases in all their beauty and emotional depths. Time and time again the precision of the playing and its musical qualities reveal facets of the work almost unsuspected and unseen. Pennario's fine playing of the Franck has something of this effect for he rightly penetrates below the surface of this much misunderstood composition. In it Franck's true feelings appear, if the player knows how to reveal them, and in this performance there is no doubt about the stature of the Quintet.

This is not an inexpensive album, but it is worth its musical weight in gold. Accompanying the records, elegantly packaged, is a magnificently illustrated 36-page book containing an account of the concerts, photographs of the rehearsals, concerts, and recording sessions, and historical and analytical accounts of the five works. Mono or stereo, beg, borrow, or better still buy, for there has never been anything like this before in recorded chamber music.

D.S.

Review of Victor LDS 6159/1-3


NB. The Schubert included in this 3-LP set was recorded in sessions later in 1961 and is omitted from our release on grounds of timings