Itzhak Perlman / Gennady Rozhdestvensky / Pinchas Zukerman

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto 1 & 2; Sonata for Two Violins

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Much as one hates to admit it, Itzhak Perlman's 1980 recordings of Prokofiev's two Violin Concertos with Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra are as warm, as lovely, as convincing, and as compelling as any made in the past 50 years. That Perlman, a virtuoso violinist with a pronounced penchant for syrupy sentimentality, should shine in Prokofiev's modernist music is hard to acknowledge. One tries to be assured with the idea that Prokofiev's Violin Concertos are less modernist than most of his works, that its themes are lyrical melodies, that its sonorities are warm and lush, that its structures are shapely and rounded. One tries to be consoled by the notion that Perlman's virtuosity is used here only when appropriate and never simply for effect, that his rich tone suits the melodies as his nostalgic interpretations suit the works. But whether or not one can be assured or consoled, one has to admit that Perlman's performances are the best since those of Oistrakh. Prokofiev's Sonata for two violins is played here by Perlman and his good friend Pinchas Zukerman. Amazingly enough, one has to admit that these two extremely sweet-toned violinists have turned in a performance that is both lyrical enough for the work's melodies and acerbic enough for its harmonies, both driven enough for the fast movements and tender enough for the slow movements. In all three works, EMI's sound is warm, clear, and vivid.

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