Joseph Szigeti - The Mercury Masters
Limited edition 6CD set
Romanticist and classicist, modernist and conservative, the violinist Joseph Szigeti defied classification. His wide repertoire ranged from Bach to Bartók and beyond, and he played it all with skill and understanding, becoming known as ‘the thinking man’s virtuoso’. His distinctively Hungarian portamenti and wide vibrato gave his playing a singing, breathing, easeful quality worlds away from the high-pressure Russian school. He made a lovely sound, yet the musical line and rhythmic pulse came first with him.
These Mercury recordings were made in New York and London during the autumn of Szigeti’s career, between 1959 and 1961. The violinist and his wife Wanda had emigrated to the US in 1940. By then his technique was less flexible, though his spirit and expressive power were undimmed. They include standard-repertoire concertos and sonatas – cherishable performances of Beethoven and Brahms – but also many accounts of the 20th-century masters whom he had known and worked with directly.
Szigeti was among the first to perform the Debussy and Ravel Sonatas, and won the approval of Prokofiev for his playing of the composer’s First Concerto. He premièred the First Rhapsody which Bartók had written for him, and they gave many recitals together. He had always wanted to record Bartók’s Second Sonata with the composer in the studio. Somehow it never happened and ironically this version with Roy Bogas was unpublished at the time: later released on the Philips label, it makes its digital début here. Szigeti's association with Ives went back to the Thirties, when he played the Fourth Sonata often in concert and recorded it, thus becoming one of the first musicians to record Ives.
The original Mercury tapes have been given a new high-definition transfer at Abbey Road Studios, and then remastered by Thomas Fine, son of the Mercury producer Wilma Cozart Fine and the label’s founder, Robert Fine. This original jacket collection also features a new appreciation of Szigeti by Tully Potter.
Eloquence 6CD Set