Korngold, Goldmark: Violin Concertos; Sinding: Suite in A minor

Itzhak Perlman / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / André Previn

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Korngold, Goldmark: Violin Concertos; Sinding: Suite in A minor Review

by James Leonard

The surprising thing about this disc isn't the coupling. The notion of joining Erich Korngold's post-Romantic Violin Concerto with Christian Sinding's pseudo-Baroque Suite for violin and orchestra and Karl Goldmark's echt-Romantic Violin Concerto might at first seem a bit of a stretch. But the works share a sunny lyricism, a harmonic conservatism, and an instantly ingratiating virtuosity that brands them as musical soulmates. Nor are the performances surprising. With violinist Itzhak Perlman's sweet tone and suave technique backed by André Previn's warmly sympathetic conducting and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's brightly polished playing, the performances are lushly Romantic, deeply expressive, and wholly characteristic of the composers.

What is surprising about this disc is how unpleasant its sound is. Recorded in Pittsburgh in 1977, 1979, and 1980 -- that is, between the twilight of stereo and the dawn of digital -- the sound here is consistently focused on Perlman and away from the orchestra. This might not be so bad in itself; after all, these are works for violin and orchestra. What makes it unpleasant is how scratchy the violin sounds, how muddy the orchestra sounds, and how poorly the two fit together on the same acoustic environment. Curiously, this was not always the case: previous releases of these performances on LP and CD have much clearer sound and a much better balanced perspective. It is so here, however, and anyone looking for Perlman, Previn, and the Pittsburgh's recordings of these works is advised to seek them out in an earlier incarnation.

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