Mozart Violin Concertos Nos. 4 and 5
Nathan Milstein, violin
The Philharmonia Orchestra
Price range: $48-257, mean $149 on popsike
Comments: This album was published in 1965 and released in the U.S. as Angel 36007. Notice how the matrix numbers on this SAX are in fact the same as the Angel stampers, which makes me wonder if this performance was recorded for U.S. Angel/Capitol and then repressed in the UK for EMI/Columbia. Any insight into this question would be most welcome. It would be interesting to be able to compare the Angel with the UK Columbia release.
Milstein's artistry and beautiful singing tone are the centerpiece of this record. Here he performs and presumably directs (no conductor is listed) Mozart's 4th and 5th violin concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The 4th violin concerto has always been my favorite of the five. Both concertos are given wonderful performances. Milstein is placed center stage, and his violin at times takes on a lifelike quality on this recording. If you listen very carefully, you can just make out Milstein's breathing just before he begins a new phrase. I'm not sure if microphone placement was altered between the recording sessions of the two concertos, because the sound of the soloist and orchestra on Concerto No. 5 (side 2) seems to be a bit more recessed to my ears than on No. 4 (side 1), which sounded a bit more forward. The sound stage is nice and wide, though again, more so on side 1 than on side 2. I don't know if it was an issue with my pressing, but in spite of the vinyl visually appearing near mint, there was another discrepancy in the sound quality between side 1 and side 2, this time negative. While the sound of both sides was very good, there was a significantly greater amount of distortion and lack of clarity when the orchestra crescendoed or played at louder volumes on side 1. This was limited to the sound of the orchestra -- strings in particular -- and the sound of Milstein's violin was not affected by this. At times, it was just too much and detracted from the enjoyment of the music. This was not the case on side 2, which had no problems with clarity at any volume. Winds had a remarkable clarity and were nicely separated from the strings in both concertos. Overall, another of Nathan Milstein's fine stereo recordings, but the album would've been even better with improved sound quality as I mentioned before.
Reference recording: Arthur Grumiaux, Colin Davis, LSO (Philips)