<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> JVC Tchaikovsky / Beethoven

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23
Van Cliburn, pianist; RCA Victor Symphony Orch/Kiril Kondrashin, cond.
JVC JM-XR24004 (F) (ADD) TT: 34:52

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61
Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
JVC JM-XR24003 (F (ADD) TT: 37:48

It has been some months since JVC issued their last two 24 bit super analog remastered RCA recordings (Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 with Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet coupled with Strauss' Till Eulenspiel's Merry Pranks with Munch/Boston Symphony - REVIEW). Now we have two more famous recordings from the RCA catalog in magnificent Japanese reprocessed editions. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 was recorded May 30, 1958 in Carnegie Hall, originally released on LP as RCA LSC 2252, issued on RCA CD (5912) generously coupled with Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. Beethoven's violin concerto played by Heifetz with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony was recorded November 27-28, 1955 in Boston's Symphony Hall.

A month before Cliburn made this recording he had just won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, achieving justified world fame and ticker-tape parades. The Texas-born pianist gave a concert May 19, 1958 in Carnegie Hall in which he played the Tchaikovsky First and Rachmaninoff Third concertos. About two weeks later he made this recording which quicky became one of the best-selling classical recordings of all time. That was back in happier days; the pianist's career continued in high gear for some years, but his repertory was limited, his playing not always up to his own standard. Eventually he cut back and virtually eliminated his concert schedule and sponsored the piano competition that bears his name, a worthy project indeed that has been a stepping stone for a number of today's pianists. In 1994, when he was sixty, he decided to make a comeback and planned to give a series of concerts with orchestra (a trimmed-down Moscow Philharmonic) playing the Tchaikovsky First and Rachmaninoff Third concertos for which he once was so well known, a program also including Copland's Lincoln Portrait which he narrated. The first concert in this "comeback" was a disaster and things did not improve. Soon the Rachmaninoff concerto was eliminated, replaced by some solos to accompany the erratic clumsily-played Tchaikovsky. One critic called Cliburn's tour "..memorable, but more as a kitschfest than as a reaffirmation of past glory." Let us remember Cliburn from his "glory days," via this premium-priced CD. You won't hear the impetuous fireworks of Horowitz or Gilels, but this is a resounding, sturdy performance of solid musicianship. The recording from a technical standpoint is outstanding with a rock-solid piano and vivid orchestra which is now identified as "symphony orchestra" instead of "RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra" as it was called on other releases.

Jascha Heifetz' perfection is vividly displayed in this superbly remastered edition of Beethoven's concerto recorded in the very early days of stereo—with a natural stereo perspective, the violin a bit too close as it usually in Heifetz recordings. He plays his own adaptations of cadenzas by Auer and Joachim, brilliantly. His unique purity of sound is beautifully captured. Munch and the Boston Symphony are fine collaborators, with RCA engineering that is surprisingly unresonant for Boston's Symphony Hall.

All program notes on JVC CDs are in Japanese, but of course there is a listing of contents in English. Highly recommended if you don't mind paying maximum $$$$.

R.E.B. (August 2003)