Ivry Gitlis: 'Live Performances, Vol. 1' (Doremi)
Legendary Israeli violinist shines on historic recordings
Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1922, violinist Ivry Gitlis studied with Carl Flesch, Thibaud, and Georges Enesco. After the war, he built an international career with audiences who loved his ultra-romantic way with the Romantics and his open-hearted generous way with the moderns. Musicians talk with awe of his performances of the Berg Concerto. In 1968, he almost stole the show at a BBC telecast of John Lennon’s Dirty Mac project on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus show. He’s still going strong at 88.
This two-CD, one-DVD box set is a chance to catch up on what you’ve missed, if you’re unfamiliar with his celebrated career.
The set includes his 1955 recording of the Sibelius Concerto for violin and orchestra in D minor, Op. 47, with the New York Philharmonic under, George Szell; plus a 1970 recording of Brahms’ Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102, with the late French cellist Maurice Gendron; Paganini Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7, with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, conductor, recorded in 1972; Hindemith’s Concerto for violin and orchestra with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Sixten Ehrling, conductor, recorded in 1966; and his 1961 world premiere recording of René Leibowitz’s Concerto for violin and orchestra with the Hannover Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leibowitz, conductor.
The Sibelius Concerto, marking Gitlis’ 1955 New York debut, is the highlight of the set—Gitlis’ feverish intensity is matched to the spellbinding perfection of the New York Philharmonic under Szell. Gitlis’ characteristic strength of tone, flashing bow, and left-hand pyrotechnics are put at the service of a keen dramatic sense that stays within bounds despite some amazing phrasing ideas and expressive rhetoric. The Brahms Double is equally revelatory and shows that two considerably different solo styles can co-exist quite happily! The slow movement of the Paganini Concerto is six minutes of ecstatic purity.
The DVD’s assortment of Gitlis’ recordings of complete works by Berg and Saint-Saens, and movements from works by Tchaikovsky, Franck, and others, demonstrates just how organic Gitlis’ motions are, both musically and physically. It is never just a bow arm here and or a left hand there—whatever happens is part of something his entire body is involved in, his mind is totally focused on, and his heart is deeply committed to.
There is one oddity: the last movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto is conducted by Michel Legrand (of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame).