Pristine Newsletter - 16 January 2015    
Newsletter Archive
Huberman Concertos 


Violin Concerto 
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  -  George Szell

Violin Concerto
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York  -  Artur Rodzinski

Bronislaw Huberman - violin

Studio and live recordings � 1934 & 1944    




PACM094 [63:33]



MusicWeb International Review 

Huberman was always a violinist to polarize opinion, due to his individuality and very personal approach. I tend now to side with his advocates rather than his detractors. It wasn't always so; having listened more to his playing of late, time has brought me to a greater appreciation of his qualities as a musician. Amongst those who saw beyond the anachronistic style and focused on those more elevated musical qualities was the influential music critic Hans Keller, who was asked by Carl Flesch's son to provide an appendix to his father's Memoirs (Rockcliff, 1957). This helped to give a more balanced assessment after the rather negative analysis of Huberman's technique by the distinguished pedagogue. Flesch's son justifies the inclusion of the appendix by saying 'the fact that there can be opinions on Huberman which are so diametrically opposed shows that his was a strong personality of many facets'.

Born in Poland in 1882, Huberman started playing the violin at the age of six. When he was ten he met Joachim, who recognized the child's gifts. After lessons both with Markees, Joachim's assistant, and later with Marsick in Paris, he took to the road. Early on in his career he was given a Strad 'The Gibson', which was twice stolen whilst in his possession. The violin has subsequently been in the hands of Ruggiero Ricci and Norbert Brainin. It is currently with Joshua Bell. In 1936 Huberman founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra - later to become the Israel Philharmonic in 1948 - for Jewish musicians who would have had an uncertain fate at the hands of the Nazis, had they stayed put. Toscanini conducted the orchestra's first performance. Huberman died in 1947.

The violinist didn't venture into the studio that often, so what we have is of great value. Yet, despite the slender discography, the Beethoven concerto with Szell and the VPO has had plenty of mileage as far as reissues are concerned. In the opinion of many it has become a classic. I have the David Lennick transfer on Naxos, and the Keith Hardwick on EMI, both of which I used for comparison. Brian Crimp's efforts on APR are well-regarded, but unfortunately I've never heard them. Preiser and the Japanese Label Opus Kura have also been in on the act.

Surprisingly, this is Szell's only commercial recording of the Beethoven Concerto. He responds well to the violinist's highly individualistic and even maverick approach. There is much flexibility in his conducting. The Vienna Philharmonic play to the manner born. Huberman's is a fairly brisk reading, and technically he is on top form throughout. Everything seems to have come together at those sessions in 1934, and the violinist reaches heights I have never before heard him achieve. Inspirational, sublime and Olympian are words that spring to mind. In the cadenza, he shuns the more often played Joachim and Kreisler cadenzas. Instead he opts for one, unknown to me, but probably penned by himself. Whilst not quite as inspired as the two aforementioned, it nevertheless showcases his formidable virtuosity.

As far as transfers are concerned, I have never been fond of David Lennick's for Naxos. Whilst the top is satisfactory, the bottom appears somewhat congested and lacking focus. I have always enjoyed Keith Hardwick's EMI transfer, where there is more of a balance struck between orchestra and soloist, and more clarity and detail discerned. Andrew Rose, for Pristine, goes one step further and, to my mind, this is the one to go for. Here there is more depth and warmth, and this magnificent recording can be heard in all its glory.

The Brahms Concerto is a live broadcast recording from Carnegie Hall, New York on the 23 January 1944. It appeared several years ago on a Music and Arts CD. In 1896 the young violinist, aged only thirteen, gave a performance of this work. Seated in the audience was the composer himself, whose enthusiasm and gratitude resulted in the presentation of an autographed photo to the gifted boy.

If I thought things couldn't get any better after the Beethoven, the Brahms is sensational. This live traversal from 1944 is a highly compelling and persuasive account in more than acceptable sound quality for its age and provenance. Huberman summons up all of his powers to deliver an inspirational account of stature and distinction. The first movement is passionate and intense with an eye on the over-arching architecture of this symphonic structure. He again uses an unfamiliar cadenza, maybe his own, but more idiomatic than the one played in the Beethoven. The second movement is eloquent and exquisitely phrased. Intonation is pure. He employs the occasional dated portamento here and there, odd-sounding to those of us whose ears have been honed in the post-Heifetz era, but so what. The finale is energetic, rhythmically propulsive and delivered with verve and panache. What adds to the success of the mix is Artur Rodzinski's sensitive support and the New York Philharmonic's refined playing. I would single out for special mention the ethereal oboe solo at the start of the slow movement. The audience shows its enthusiasm and appreciation with applause at the end of each movement.

This release should be enthusiastically taken up, not only by Huberman fans, but also by those appreciative of fine violin playing. No booklet is provided, but full programme notes are available online. 


Stephen Greenbank 

Jan 2015     


MusicWeb International

Available to all Pristine Streaming subscribers

New This Week:

Adolf Busch

Rudolf Serkin 

Fantasia in C, D934
HMV DB.1521-23
Rec. 6 May 1931
Matrix Nos. 2B 834-8

Notes & review from The Gramophone, July 1932, by W.R.A:

The invaluable Cyclopedic Survey informs me that Schubert composed this
Fantasia "for the famous violinist, Josef Slavjk," adding that in it the composer "was paying toll to the age of virtuosity which had then set in.

It is enormously difficult and extremely effective for both violinist and pianist, and like a good deal of virtuoso music it is rather loosely knit. But we can readily forgive both inconsequence and exuberance for the sake of the true Schubertian loveliness that pervades it from end to end.



The opening (Andante molto) is very slow, with pianissimo tremolos on the piano and wailing, dramatic phrases on the violin. This introduction is of considerable length, and ends with simple but effective cadenzas for both instruments which lead straight into an Allegretto. Here a simple melody in A minor is announced by the violin, repeated on the piano, continued by the violin, and then, after a pause (during which we turn over the record), treated by the two instruments in canon. A change to the major brings a gay little melody with a true Schubertian lilt, and some brilliant passage-work. Schubert clearly likes this Allegretto, for now he proceeds to repeat the whole thing-canon and all the rest of it-but with certain modifications, so that now we end with a beautiful connecting passage for the pianist in semiquavers leading to the key of A flat. In this tonality (on the third side) we meet an old friend, the melody of Sei mir gegr�sst, with two highly decorative variations. A third variation (fourth side) - hideously difficult for the violin-brings us to the next link. This starts with a curiously Mozart-like version of the theme (the melodic line is almost identical with one of the variations from Mozart's piano sonata in A), and passes by way of a violin cadenza to a reminiscence of the introduction. The last side is mainly concerned with an Allegro in C, based on a fine, marching tune and full of opportunities for display. Just before the end, however, we turn back to A flat for a moment to take a last glimpse of Sei mir gegr�sst before we gird up our loins and sprint for the winning-post.


I can heartily recommend this piece. The playing and interpretation are so good that we are hardly conscious of the rather incoherent structure of the music and the recording successfully meets the heavy demands made upon it. The surface noise, of which I was conscious during the introduction, can hardly be avoided when the music is so soft. If you want unhackneyed Schubert, here is your opportunity.


Transfer by Dr John Duffy. 
Busch & Serkin

This Week    Toscanini's 1943 Bizet and 1945 Gershwin
Security        Changes behind the scenes at Pristine
Toscanini      Bizet full War Bonds concert, plus Gerswhin  
PSXclusive   Busch & Serkin play Schubert Fantasia  
Reviewed      Huberman - Recording of the Month   
This week's new release

This week's release brings music from two Georges whose music is somewhat under-represented in the Toscanini: the Georges Bizet and Gershwin. From the former we have the first release of s concert given in September 1943 to raise money for US War Bonds; from the latter a March 1945 performance of his jazz-influenced tone poem, An American in Paris. It's quite a combination...

George Bizet

Toscanini, we are told, was fond of Bizet's music - Carmen in particular was "led many times in the theater" (Mortimer H. Frank) - and yet it rarely appeared on his NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcasts. The major exception to this was a concert outside of the regular yearly broadcast seasons, given on 19th September 1943 in NBC's Studio 8H as a War Bonds fund-raiser. ("Send $1000 to your radio station for War Bonds and you'll receive a special signed photograph of Arturo Toscanini...")

The concert featured three suites derived and adapted by Toscanini from the operas of Bizet: La Jolie Fille de Perth (The Fair Maid of Perth), L'Arl�sienne and Carmen, none of which coincides exactly with the regular published suites connected with each work. Items are cut, suites are mixed and matched, and Toscanini even gets down to a little composition himself, with a harp cadenza written for Carmen.

As I explain in my notes, this came to me in a variety of transcriptions, some complete, others partial. My task was not only restore each of four options to the point at which I could reliably select the best for each part of the broadcast performance, but then to mix and match these in as seamless a manner as possible and squeeze the very best possible sound quality from each.

The finest quality was to be found in discs prepared for rebroadcast in South America - and quite possibly live short-wave transmission there as well. I'm told that these were prepared simultaneously to the live broadcast, with the Spanish commentator sitting in a booth next to the one in which Ben Grauer introduced the programme to US and Canadian listeners.

My source tells me: "So far as I know all the discs were cut simultaneously - usually copy A was master, copy B was backup in case A was damaged, copy C was Spanish, copy D was for Toscanini. If the technology in cutting the discs was the same, presumably the results should have been pretty similar even if allowing for small variations in machines."

This makes a lot of sense, so I was somewhat confused to find that the Spanish broadcast transcriptions have a clear and vivid frequency extension way above that found in the US discs: the latter get very dim and nasty above around 5.5kHz, while the former extend cleanly and brightly up to nearly 10kHz. Unfortunately they contain only the first half (up to but excluding the interval talk and the Carmen Suite), but what we do have is of excellent quality.

It was then down to a selection contest between the other three sources to find something as close to this as possible for the Carmen excerpts, and to use all the technology at my disposal to try and squeeze every last drop of upper-end information out of the "best of the rest". The results, whilst not quite up to the same standard as the Jolie Fille de Perth and L'Arl�sienne, to happily come pretty close. The original, full recording then provided me with Ben Grauer's introductions (curiously up almost a semitone by the halfway point until I fixed them), which has been lightly trimmed to remove some references to sponsors and the midway talk, also omitted.

George Gershwin

With a little space to spare I was able to add another recording to this release - after all that French music, why not explore the idea of an American in Paris, as conjured up by George Gershwin in 1928. By this time the saxophone was starting to become more associated with jazz, and it can be heard in this score - but you'll also hear it in the Bizet concert of 1943, Bizet being the first major composer to write for the instrument in an orchestral context.

As with the Bizet concert - and particularly the Spanish transcriptions - the sound quality here is superb, and after XR remastering sounds more 1950s or even 1960s than mid-forties. It really is spectacular, and one senses Toscanini would have made fine work of other jazz-influenced composers of the day, given the inclination and opportunity based on what he achieves here. There's a life and zip to this live performance that perhaps exceeds that of his studio recording made a couple of months after.

Behind the scenes
Building more security into our  website

If you've logged into our website this week you may have found your browser appears to have "forgotten" your password. That's because we've been working behind the scenes to add layers of security to our website, and as a result the site address looks different to Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and the rest.

Look carefully (if your browser shows you this) and you'll see the usual "http" in the address line has been replaced by "https". That extra "s" on the end stands for "secure", and indicates that all your dealings with our website are being encrypted, just as they would be if you log into your bank account or any other other secure system.

Our website was built with basic security in mind, mainly by keeping as little on file as possible. We've never asked for or stored any financial information and we don't receive it when you buy anything from us - transactions happen at secure websites run either by our bank (for card transactions) or by PayPal - we don't need to know your card number and, frankly, I would rather not have the responsibility of keeping it secure on your behalf. We do have your name, address and the basic identification information that's in your profile, secured by a password only you know. This is so we can identify you, get in touch with you, keep our (legally required) billing system in order, and send your CDs to the right address.

Even so, a number of people have e-mailed me expressing concern that even these basic details could fall into the wrong hands, hence the additional security measures we've introduced over the last week or so. In order to explain (in as close to layman's terms as I've been able to find online) what this involves, I've copied the following basic Q&A explanation for you:

You click to check out at an online merchant. Suddenly your browser address bar says HTTPS instead of HTTP. What's going on? Is your credit card information safe?

Good news. Your information is safe. The website you are working with has made sure that no one can steal your information.


Instead of HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), this website uses HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).

Using HTTPS, the computers agree on a "code" between them, and then they scramble the messages using that "code" so that no one in between can read them. This keeps your information safe from hackers.


They use the "code" on a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), sometimes called Transport Layer Security (TLS) to send the information back and forth.

There's more to read about the technology behind this here if you're interested (and there are far more complex descriptions elsewhere):

If you try and log into our site now but can't remember your password, you may be able to check your browser's stored password list (I regularly do this in Firefox) to remind you. Many browsers allow you to check on any passwords you've saved, somewhere in the tools menu or similar.

Alternatively you can click on "forgot your password?" in the log in section of our site. Enter your e-mail address and, assuming it's already registered with Pristine, you'll get an e-mail to that address after a few seconds inviting you to a page where you can set a new password for your account. You can then use this to log in to Pristine Classical right away.

None of this should give you any cause for concern. As the headline suggests, this is very much behind the scenes, and shouldn't make any noticeable difference to your visits to the Pristine Classical website. So enjoy the warm glow of knowing you're even safer and more secure than you were before, and make sure you carry on enjoying the music!

Andrew Rose

Last week's releases - clickable images:



Toscanini's 1943 all-Bizet concert (first release) - plus superb Gershwin, all in brilliant sound quality



 "All three of Toscanini's surviving performances of this work (probably the only ones he led) evince his musicality and responsiveness to its jazz idiom"
- Mortimer H. Frank on 'An American in Paris'


BIZET   La Jolie Fille de Perth
An American in Paris*

NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini, conductor 


Recorded live by NBC Radio, 19 September 1943
and *18 March 1945  



Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer:

Andrew Rose               


Total duration: 572:34                                     

Website page link: PASC 431    


Notes: Toscanini and Bizet

Toscanini admired Bizet's music, especially Carmen, which he led many times in the theater. His arrangement of the suite from the opera differs from Bizet's Suite No. 1 in the sequence of the selections it draws upon and the use of the Toreador's music as heard in the final act rather than in the opera's prelude. It also includes a harp cadenza composed by the maestro. The 1952 broadcast and subsequent recordings are as identical as two performances can be and differ from the earlier presentation in their occasionally faster tempos.

The performances of the Arl�sienne and Fair Maid of Perth Suites offer prime examples of Toscanini's ability to project a work with unaffected, straightforward simplicity. Quite possibly his attraction to the former was rooted in its original orchestration, which included the first use of a solo saxophone by a major composer and the deployment of harp, horn, and plucked strings to suggest bells. These and other details emerge in sharp focus under Toscanini's direction.

Notes: Toscanini and Gershwin

The studio recording of An American in Paris, made exactly two months after Toscanini's second broadcast performance of the work, has justly been cited as an example of how fine studio 8H could sound under ideal conditions. In this case, those conditions were achieved by removing seats from the floor and placing the orchestra where the audience ordinarily sat. All three of Toscanini's surviving performances of this work (probably the only ones he led) evince his musicality and responsiveness to its jazz idiom, while suggesting an elegance not always encountered in ostensibly more idiomatic performances. And as William Youngren has pointed out in his annotations for the RCA CD, Toscanini's basic tempo, while sometimes called "too fast," is identical to that favored by the composer.


Mortimer H. Frank, Toscanini, The NBC Years (Amadeus Press, 2002)


Producer's Note

The bulk of this release was sourced from discs prepared for South American Spanish-language re-broadcasts of the 1943 all-Bizet special War Bonds concert which omitted the excerpts from Carmen. These have been transferred from a second, full source which was marginally less well-preserved. Meanwhile a third, lower quality source of the full concert with Ben Grauer's announcements provided the commentary and applause heard here. The sound quality of the excerpts from La Jolie Fille de Perth and L'Arl�sienne was particularly high for 1943 and I've been able to do great work on this to produce a particularly wonderful, clear and full orchestral sound. The Carmen excerpts come close to matching this, though with less top end extension the sound isn't quite as clear.

The 1945 recording of Gershwin's An American in Paris was suggested to me as an interesting and "kind of" appropriate extra for this release. It's an exuberant performance I'd not heard before, and despite some slight surface noise that's been largely dealt with it's been brilliantly preserved here, coming across with much more life and pizzazz than the RCA studio recording which Toscanini made a couple of months later.

N.B. The Bizet excerpts, referred to here as suites, do not necessarily coincide with the 'official' published suites - as Mortimer Frank points out, Toscanini created his own suites and added his own compositional elements as he saw fit.

Andrew Rose

Long sample:
Excerpts from La Jolie Fille de Perth and An American in Paris
Download and listen

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