Friday, April 22, 2016

Yehudi Menuhin Two Violin Concertos by Max Bruch


   Although idea of string instrument with the bow was common in ancient civilizations, violin itself has relatively short history. We know violin as instrument constructed in 16th century Italy, and with slight modifications made in 18th and 19th century this form of violin lasts until today.  The violin music is one of main currents of virtuoso repertoire, and it’s needless to say violin is most common instrument in orchestras and chamber ensembles. This makes violin artistry, just as it is with great voices or piano virtuosi the theme for unending debates. It’s hard to count all great violinists of last century, but all listeners agree Yehudi Menuhin was one of very few virtuosos occupying the position of the best. He recorded more than five hundred records as violinist and conductor.
   Yehudi Menuhin, born April 22, 1916 in New York, was undeniably one of very few virtuosi dominated 20th century scenes. He was famous most of all for his virtuoso technique, deep, emotional sound and balanced interpretations. His strengths were also wide spectrum of musical knowledge and stylistic versatility. He started to learn in the age of four, as seven year old he debuted with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. As 10 years old, January 6th, 1927 Menuhin debuted in Berlin with orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter. The same time he started recording, and in next years he was active virtuoso at most famous philharmonic halls in Europe. Turning 20, he was already world famous virtuoso. During the 2nd World War violinist give concerts in all military bases of US Army and was the first who was giving concerts in liberated European cities. In April 1945 he gave concert for surviving inmates of concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen. Two years later he was the first Jewish musician who gave concert with Berliner Philharmoniker and Wilhelm Furtwängler in an act of reconciliation. 

Yehudi Menuhin  - Max Bruch - Two Violin Concertos (1974)

   After the war Menuhin became public personality – famous musician was internationally recognized intellectualist, who entered to European culture many elements of remote civilizations, especially yoga masters and Indian classical music. He was honorary patron for international musical schools, prizes, music festivals and orchestras. As he made series of recordings with Wilhelm Furtwängler, he was famous for his peace and international cooperation advocacy. For his achievements he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was also active as conductor and performer of non classical music. He was recording with Ravi Shankar, and their famous 1967 album West Meets East won the Grammy Award. Yehudi Menuhin made famous recordings with Stephane Grapelli, which was significant element in process of appreciating jazz in classical music community.
   Being at the height of his fame in 1973 Yehudi Menuhin recorded first two of three violin concertos composed by Max Bruch. It is an interesting album as the chance to hear these two concertos. The first Concerto G Minor op. 26 is famous as conservative romanticism in style of Mendelssohn’s Concerto E Minor, so it is present in world culture in dozens of great recordings. Second Bruch’s Concerto D Minor op. 44 is relatively forgotten. The EMI His Master’s Voice label album is a great possibility to compare both concertos in one competent rendition. It is also a chance to compare various moments in soloist career since Bruch’s G Minor Concerto was Menuhin’s first concert recording in 1931 conducted Sir Landon Ronald. And in later decades Menuhin played this concerto permanently. Both concertos are recorded with wide gesture of romantic emotionalism and precisely executed solo and orchestral parts. In some virtuoso fragments of 2nd Concerto Menuhin had problems with his right hand and the bow was too heavy, sometimes he has some tendency to slide in fast passages, but general effect is satisfactory. Four stars considering great performance of Concerto G Minor and competent presentation of second.