The way Szeryng captures Brahms’s yearning sentimentality is heartbreaking
Mozart Divertimento no.15 in B flat major KV287: fourth movement
Growing up in Israel in the 1970s, there were very few recordings available to me. One of my most formative memories, therefore, is a radio programme called The Golden Age, which featured archive recordings of the old masters. This piece, played so beautifully by Szigeti, was the signature tune.
Josef Suk (violin) János Starker (cello) Julius Katchen (piano)
Brahms Complete Piano Trios
Of all the composers that I cherish, Brahms moves me the most. I still remember hearing this recording for the first time and marvelling at the sheer mastery. Starker’s intimate beauty, Suk’s warm, rich tone and Katchen’s poetic lyricism combine to create this truly sublime rendition.
Victoria de Los Angeles (soprano) Carlo del Monte (tenor) Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera House, Rome/Tullio Serafin
I’ve always felt Italian opera and Verdi in particular to be one of my main influences. I love this recording for the subtle elegance of de Los Angeles singing so perfectly countered by del Monte’s unbridled passion. Most memorably, towards the end of the opera (as Violetta reflects upon her life and impending death), del Monte's voice cracks with raw emotion. It is utterly chilling in its realism.
Henryk Szeryng (violin) Tasso Janopoulo (piano)
Brahms (arr. Kreisler) Hungarian Dance no.17
This is an exceptionally emotional performance, with every note and gesture executed impeccably. The exquisite beauty of Szeryng’s playing and the way he captures Brahms’s yearning sentimentality are heartbreaking and always bring tears to my eyes. His 1963 performance on French TV, which can be found on YouTube, is perfection.
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta
Beethoven Symphony no.7: second movement
My favourite recording of Beethoven’s Seventh, also on YouTube, is a live performance from NHK Hall in Tokyo. It is not without its flaws but to me, Mehta comes closest to balancing perfectly the dignified funeral march beginning and the passionate climax that follows. I’m always deeply moved by the warmth and subtle expression of the IPO players, and in particular the string section.
Photo: David Fisher
First published in the July 2013 issue of The Strad. Download the digital edition here.