The Classic Archive series produced by EMI is a large and valuable set
of performances on DVD. The one we watched today featured the great
Polish violinist, Henryk Szeryng (1918-88), with performances from
1962-64. These were taken from French broadcast television archives.
The main work on the disc was the Brahms “Violin Concerto,” with Paul
Paray conducting the Paris Conservatory Orchestra. It was a fine
performance, showcasing Szeryng’s rock-solid intonation and commanding
style of playing. The mono sound was quite acceptable and the camera
work was adequate, if not great. Fortunately, a lot of shots featured
Szeryng’s left and right hands.
The remainder of the DVD was filled with performances of works for
violin and piano with many of them in arrangements by people other
than the composer. There were also a couple of works for unaccompanied
violin, such as Bach’s “Fuga” from his “Sonata for Solo Violin No. 1,”
and Fritz Kreisler’s “Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice.”
A standout for me was Ravel’s “Tzigane,” in a Szeryng performance of
full-blooded passion. The same thing can be said for the “Romanian
Folk Dances,” by Bartok. Tasso Janopoulo was Szeryng’s partner on
piano and according to the accompanying booklet, he was also the
frequent partner of the great French violinist, Jacques Thibaud. This
black and white footage showed Szeryng playing a wide-ranging
repertoire, and the camera work was quite good.
Two bonus feature London performances were taken from the
BBC archives. They were shot in 1975 in color. These included the
aforementioned Kreisler piece and an arrangement by Kreisler for
violin and piano of the “Rondeau” from Mozart’s “Haffner Serenade.”
I found the performance of the Mozart to be routine and not engaging.
Szeryng seemed to be more at the “top of his game,” in the 1960’s
Nevertheless, when Szeryng was “on point,” it was quite obvious
that he was one of the greats.