Heifetz/Reiner: Brahms Violin Concerto Op. 77 (rec. 1955) - German RCA GL84909
Jacket EX / LP NM / German pressing
This excellent LP from German RCA (GL84909, German pressing / DMM · Direct Metal Mastering, yellow label, stereo) features Jascha Heifetz's Olympian account of Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 77, recorded with Fritz Reiner and the mighty Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the fabled acoustics of Orchestra Hall, Chicago in February 1955, still very much a landmark performance in this work's discography even over a half-century on. Although not as sought-after as the “Living Stereo” originals, these outstanding German pressings (this copy pressed in May 1985) arguably offer smoother sound, while retaining all the impact of the original recording. What’s more, RCA supplies complete discographic information and fine liner notes (by Robert Matthew-Walker) in English, French, and German.
Wrote the critic T.H. in his September 1985 review for The Gramophone:
“You may think that Reiner starts the opening tutti at an extraordinarily quick speed—until you remember that he is going to accompany no less a virtuoso than Heifetz, so he is merely taking it to match his soloist's performance. You will like this if you think, as I do, that this concerto is too often played in the kind of 'autumnal' manner often attributed to Brahms's compositions but which really should not apply to many of them. With Heifetz it is played with respect but without any kind of reverent hushed awe.
“I have often commented on the way soloists play that passage in the first movement at bar 349, just as if they were pedestrians picking their feet gingerly through puddles (and Belkin is another of them). Heifetz shows that such passages can go in tempo without the slightest hesitation and in one of them, at bar 223, he even positively presses on. Yet there is never any lack of feeling in the music. Reiner accompanies faithfully if without any particular distinction. The slow movement is lovely and the finale is a winner, the playing of an exuberant young man, yet, Heifetz was over 50 when he made this record. It is entirely confident throughout—and just listen to his real staccato, a rare thing from violinists.
“The RCA recording, now 30 years old, has been remastered and pressed using the DMM process: it comes up extraordinarily well.”
Finally, these pressings are not on floppy or dynaflex vinyl, but are on superb medium-weight vinyl – really, these are outstanding issues.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is EXCELLENT-. There is slight edgewear and mild discoloration, but that is all. The album is free of seamsplits, bends, or owners' markings and remains very solid, bright, and glossy – an excellent collector's copy.
The condition of the LP itself is near-MINT and the playback is superb. Overall, this rates as an outstanding collector's copy.