Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RCA LSC-2281 Szeryng's Best Brahms Concerto

RCA LSC-2281
Brahms Violin Concerto

Henryk Szeryng, violin
Pierre Monteux, conductor
London Symphony Orchestra

Pressing: 1S/1S

Condition: EX

Date first published: 1959

Performance: 10/10

Sound: 8/10

Price range: $27-369, mean $108 on popsike

Comments: Yes, Jascha Heifetz's RCA recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto may have been the more popular and better selling one at the time (this is just a hunch -- I don't have the actual numbers to prove this), but I've always found this performance by Henryk Szeryng with Monteux and the LSO to be the more musically and aurally satisfying interpretation. The violin is simply put, beautifully recorded, and you can just imagine Szeryng himself right there before you, center stage. The orchestra is well balanced with the soloist to my ears and provides an effective accompaniment.

Here's what Jonathan Valin has to say in the RCA Bible:

"Szeryng's Strad on thie Grand Prix du Disque winner has a dryish silvery tone that is a bit bright but still quite beautiful. The string choirs share the same rich, dryish sound. Transparency is fairly good too, although that ol' Kingsway Hall nemesis -- phase and reverb problems in the alto parts -- shows its face, occasionally thickening up textures at the back of the stage (and sometimes at the front, as well). Still, it is quite a bit better than passable sound, and I am happy to report that the performance is superb -- as good as my two other favorite Brahms Violin Concertos, the Heifetz/Reiner on TCA, and the Oistrakh/Klemperer on Angel/EMI. (By the bye, the Szigeti performance on Mercury is also very interesting. His seasick, wavering tone -- the result of Szigeti's age and illness - is hard to overlook, in spite of terrific accompaniment by Menges and the LSO. But if you can get past it, you'll discover that Szigeti's phrasing is quite wonderful. There are good reasons why this man's musicianship is so highly regarded.)"

This is one of the rarer ones in the RCA Living Stereo catalog, hence, the steeper price.  It has been issued on XRCD, though I haven't had the chance to compare it head to head with the original LP. On an off day, I found my current copy for 99 cents at the local goodwill store.

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