For a work that appears to be one of the most finely crafted violin concertos of the twentieth century and an easy favorite with audiences, the Miklós Rózsa Violin Concerto has been recorded surprisingly few times. The 1956 recording by Jascha Heifetz, to whom that work was dedicated, dominates the field even though violinists Robert McDuffie and onetime Heifetz student Igor Gruppman have also made respectable recordings of the work. With Naxos' Rózsa: Violin Concerto/Sinfonia Concertante, Russian-born, New York based violinist Anastasia Khitruk decides it's her turn; she is joined by Dmitry Yablonsky and the Russian Philharmonic and cellist Andrey Tchekmazov in the obvious foil for the concerto, Rózsa's Sinfonia Concertante, written for Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky.
These are, along with Korngold's Violin Concerto, among the small fraternity of great Hollywood concertos, stretching from Joseph Achron's First Violin Concerto in the 1930s to John Corigliano's The Red Violin; a little pocket of Europeanized tradition that plays itself out on the stages of Los Angeles. One associates with this genre soaring themes, lush orchestrations, driving rhythms, and a remnant of middle-European tastes tempered by an American accent. The orchestral complement led by Yablonsky seems mostly concerned with staying out of the way of the soloists, which is a pity; in both works, there is a sort of sonic cul-de-sac present between the orchestra and the soloists, and when it is time for the orchestra to soar, it remains curiously earthbound. If one is not primarily concerned with the works involved and are mainly interested in hearing Khitruk, an extraordinary soloist who herself hadn't made enough recordings by 2007 to fully expose her talents, then this is definitely worthwhile, and she is certainly on task in terms of Rózsa's concerto. So, Naxos' Rózsa: Violin Concerto/Sinfonia Concertante is not a top choice in these works -- apart from Heifetz's monophonic recording, McDuffie is probably the strongest contender -- but it is still a fairly strong choice overall and definitely a good outing for the star soloist.