A complete Mozart sonata and some characterful miniatures are highlights

Mischa Elman: Mozart and Paganini

The Strad Issue: February 2024

Description: A complete Mozart sonata and some characterful miniatures are highlights

Musicians: Mischa Elman (violin) Jan Peerce (tenor) Risë Stevens (mezzo-soprano) Wolfgang Rosé and Brooks Smith (piano)

Works: Mozart: Violin Sonata no.32 K454. Paganini: Caprice no.24 (arr. Elman); works by Arensky, Beethoven, Braga, Cui, Drigo, Drdla, Elman, Gossec, Massenet, Offenbach and Riego

Catalogue number: BIDDULPH 85037-2

In December 1948 Mischa Elman celebrated the 40th anniversary of his American debut and in April 1949 (Biddulph erroneously alleges 1951), RCA Victor made six of the recordings reissued here, with Wolfgang Rosé – nephew of Arnold – at the piano.

Gossec’s Gavotte is quite fun (Busch in 1921 is even better) but Beethoven’s Minuet is dreary and droopy – the melancholy is more suited to Cui’s Orientale; the Serenades by Arensky and Drigo and Drdla’s Souvenir are delightful.

From December 1950 come two sentimental but lovable songs with Jan Peerce, and the rest is from 1951, including Elman’s only complete Mozart Sonata K454. Rosé’s piano is well in the picture and Elman cannot resist expanding a little in the Largo; the Allegro is quite perky, as is the Allegretto finale. In between, Elman’s phrasing flowers in the Andante. The E-string tone is a bit fierce but I enjoyed this performance.

Elman’s arrangement of Paganini’s Caprice no.24 is fairly forgettable. The piano, which has a brief introduction, gets in the way and Elman struggles in Variations 2 and 4; nos.3, 6 and the slashing 8 are good. In place of Variation 11 Elman writes four of his own, the second way out of style (Paganiniakov?) and a coda.

Duets in French with Risë Stevens – Offenbach’s Barcarolle and Massenet’s Élégie – are nice, as is Elman’s second of three recordings of his own Tango. There is enough vintage Elman here to warrant a recommendation.