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CD Review

The Originals

Pinchas Zukerman, violin
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
* Orchestre de Paris/Daniel Barenboim
Deutsche Grammophon 4793772
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Pinchas Zukerman's work has never really impressed me, nor do many of his recordings claim top billing here in the United States. In the U.K., he seems better appreciated. BBC Music Magazine gave his latter recording of the Brahms five stars, for example. That recording is on RCA; I find Zubin Mehta a bore, and Zukerman disengaged emotionally despite being unchallenged technically. Indeed, that is my frequent impression; a bored master violinist. However, this is a well-programmed disc that shows Zukerman in his youthful prime.

I have no hesitation in acclaiming the Sibelius as one of his finest concerto recordings. Daniel Barenboim has not recorded any other Sibelius (save for the concerto, again) to date, but he and his longtime friend team up for an excellent reading. What a reminder of Zukerman's tremendous musical intelligence! While Barenboim has always been an erratic conductor, he and Zukerman are in perfect sympathy with each other. This recording last appeared on Australian Eloquence in tandem with a slightly sluggish Beethoven concerto. The Romance makes a nice filler.

The Brahms has not been seen since the mid-nineties, and I don't quite understand why. Sure, the competition is beyond fierce, but this is still a fine rendition. Never at his best in Paris, Barenboim gets them to sound reasonably Germanic (though Klemperer on EMI remains unchallenged in terms of getting the French to play this work). Zukerman still isn't ideal for this concerto, yet he's miles ahead of his later remake on RCA. The Paris orchestra also finds far more color and emotional depth than does Mehta in Los Angeles. A very unexpected, yet quite valuable addition to the Originals series.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman