Stern: Mozart K. 216 / Mendelssohn Op. 64 - French Columbia FCX 210
Jacket VG / LP VG / French pressing
This lovely and quite rare LP from French Columbia (FCX 210, French pressing, blue/silver “Microsillon” label, mono) features the young Isaac Stern in a pairing of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major K. 216 and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64.
In the former, made at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, on 28 March 1950, Stern directs the Columbia Symphony Orchestra from the violin. In the latter, he is accompanied by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, a recording set down at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, on 30 October 1950.
Wrote the critic H.F. in his review for the November 1951 issue of The Gramophone: “A record by Isaac Stern one regards with respect and anticipation of pleasure in the world of recorded music he is an accepted violinist of the first rank. It is no disparagement therefore to write of his performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto that it is not his best achievement. The full rich tone is here still, the long, flowing phrases, the immense musical energy and gusto. It seems to me almost overpowering, this ebullience, in this particular work, and the tone is almosi persistently too heavy: true, it makes an important thing of that considered trifle" which is the finale. But one sees the seeds of danger in this overplaying! Stern has become too much of the virtuoso. It is a danger that constantly besets American soloists of great talent they have every inducement to exploit their own athletic virtuosity at the expense of the composer's style and ideas.
“Stern opens assertively and with what appears to be a firm intention to carry through the opening movement at a decisive speed. It is a surprise and a pity when he slows down the second subject to an uncalled-for sentimentalism— oddly, he does not brake down so strongly in the recapitulation. The resultant effect, as he picks up his main tempo, is one of rush. The exquisite dropping passage in the development loses its emphatic and pathetic simplicity through overplaying. The slow movement gives us a plethora of tone with a heavy vibrato, vivid and in a sense beautiful but over-strong in its scentedness. The finale is not only brilliant, but has body too—the quick notes are all rich in substance.
“The recording itself is also extremely heavy: thus the middle section of the slow movement is quite overwhelming at the level of the rest. The violin tone is exaggeratedly flutey in reproduction: lots of high overtones do not prevent middle and bass register from being tubby and booming. Any two recordings of one piece more different than this and Campoli's (Decca LX3000 is, would be hard to find. The latter was congratulated as a very fine performance by the late R. H. in Ti GRAM)PHONE of September, .1950. The comparison of the two has been interesting and instructive, .1 have found. The
“Campoli is almost lean in comparison with the fullblooded Stern; but on the other hand it is more like Mendelssohn's piece and style of scoring. The bass register is better than the American, yet the tone in all is slightly reedy. There is no flutey, but only pure violin, quality about Campoli's tone: and his whole recording is more literal. His approach to the slow movement is simpler, gentler, and more tender, and the middle section makes nicer noises. He is less rich than Stern but better poised. On the contrary side, he races through the finale with a light insouciance suggestive of floating thistle-down. Personally, I prefer the Campoli version, but slightly regret a lack of the warmth and richness that are Stern's possession.”
Incidentally, the lovely cover art was executed by A. Duculty, while the fine liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket (in French only) were written by Réne Dumesnil.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is VERY GOOD. There is bumping/wear at corners, edgewear in general, and a bit of writing to the rear panel, and a small circular sticker to the front panel, but that is all. There are no seamsplits, bends, or other defects and the album remains solid, bright, and highly attractive – overall, a very good collector’s copy.
The condition of the LP itself is VERY GOOD. Though the surfaces are not absolutely silent, and there are a few scattered tics, in general the playback is quite fine. Those requiring CD silent surfaces, however, are kindly advised to look elsewhere. Overall, this rates as a very good collector's copy.