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CD Review

The Perlman Edition

The Kreisler Album

Itzhak Perlman, violin
Samuel Sanders, piano
EMI Classics 5 62601 2 ADD/DDD 69:09
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Forty years after his Carnegie Hall debut, Itzhak Perlman is the subject of "The Perlman Edition," a series of reissues from EMI Classics. Before coming to EMI Records, Perlman was an RCA Victor recording artist, and he went on to make several recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. Some would argue, however, that Perlman was at his best in the 1970s and early 1980s, when most of the "Perlman Edition" recordings were made.

The music on The Kreisler Album falls into three categories: 1) original music Fritz Kreisler wrote and took credit for from the get-go (Liebeslied, Schön Rosmarin, etc.), 2) music "written in the style of" composers who largely were forgotten during the first half of the 20th century (Pugnani, Francoeur, and others), and 3) arrangements of other composers' music (for example, Dvořák's Songs My Mother Taught Me, Granados's Spanish Dance #5, and Schumann's Romance in A). When these categories are mixed in the right proportion, as they are here, the variety and the quality of the materials leads to considerable musical enjoyment.

Kreisler lived as late as 1962, and he recorded much of his music and many of his arrangements. He was a virtuoso to be sure, but today we tend to remember the beauty and warmth of his tone. Kreisler popularized his works, but younger violinists such as Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein kept them alive.

Perlman easily takes his place in this exalted company. When the repertoire interested him, there was no one who recaptured the "golden age" of violin-playing more vividly. In fact, one might argue that the essence of Itzhak Perlman is captured in these miniatures more than it is in his recordings of the great violin concertos. Technical mastery and emotional sincerity complement each other here, and once again we are led to believe in the greatness of little things done well.

Although the 21 selections on this CD were recorded over a period of more than thirteen years (1972-1985), there are no stylistic inconsistencies. For that we must also recognize pianist Samuel Sanders, who gets no mention in the booklet note, but certainly merits one for his partnership with Perlman. Although Sanders is not the "star" here, his assured pianism ensures that he isn't merely pushed to one side.

The excellent digital remasterings date from 1990 and 1995, and maintain the warmth and excitement of the performances themselves.

Copyright © 2004, Raymond Tuttle