“Now I know there is a God in heaven!”, exclaimed Albert Einstein when he heard the young Yehudi Menuhin play the violin. Not only was Menuhin an extraordinary musician, he lived through – and helped to shape – a momentous period in history. The Warner Classics catalog contains 70 years’ worth of his recordings and this 3-CD collection, Yehudi: The Art of Menuhin, provides a fascinating perspective on his achievements: Menuhin was a man of ideals who changed the world through music.
Naxos has done music lovers yet another good turn by releasing these recordings (1932-36), vividly remasterd from 78s. Menuhin was in his later teens when he made them. The concertos in A minor and E are conducted by his teacher Enescu, who is the other soloist in the D minor Double concerto, which Monteux conducts. The performances are compelling, and the slow movements of the solo concertos are imprinted with that beauty of tone and phrase that makes the young Menuhin a permanent wonder. But the Double Concerto is the treasure. The soloists are indistinguishably linked yet each a consummate individual. Playing more heart-easing than in the distraught largo could not be imagined.(Paul Driver)
Admirers of Sir Yehudi Menuhin will be pleased to have this compilation of his early stereo recordings of the major violin concertos. I have always enjoyed his version of the Bach Double Concerto with Christian Ferras; it rightly dominated the catalogue throughout the 1960s, and the spirited baroque vitality of the performance, plus a beautifully judged central Largo, give great satisfaction. Moreover, it demonstrates what a good sound balance Peter Andry and Neville Boyling could achieve in London's Kingsway Hall in 1959.
The sonatas and partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001–1006) are a set of six works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. They are sometimes referred to in English as the sonatas and partias for solo violin in accordance with Bach's headings in the autograph manuscript: "Partia" (plural "Partien") was commonly used in German-speaking regions during Bach's time, whereas the Italian "partita" was introduced to this set in the 1879 Bach Gesellschaft edition, having become standard by that time. The set consists of three sonatas da chiesa in four movements and three partitas (or partias) in dance-form movements.
The set was completed by 1720, but was only published in 1802 by Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn. Even after publication, it was largely ignored until the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim started performing these works. Today, Bach's Sonatas and Partitas are an essential part of the violin repertoire, and they are frequently performed and recorded.
Three sonatas recorded by the young Yehudi Menuhin in happy times - particularly happy, as his younger sister Hephzibah is his pianist in all three. I'm not sure that he ever recorded the two beautiful Brahms sonatas again ; certainly not the Schumann, the quite unfamiliar second sonata. Its unfamiliarity is unmerited - Menuhin was bowled over by it when he came across it, and the performance is white hot, very committed though also fully under control.
Compiled from recordings dating from 1965 to 1974, this EMI/Gemini double-disc of Bartók's string concertos and other works features Yehudi Menuhin at the peak of his powers, with support from two important Bartók specialists and their sympathetic orchestras. Menuhin is admirably backed in all the concertos by Antal Dorati and the New Philharmonia Orchestra, and Pierre Boulez and the BBC Symphony Orchestra provide meticulous accompaniment in the two Rhapsodies. The resilient Viola Concerto and the splendid Violin Concerto No. 2 are essential listening, both for their masterful writing and for the vigorous performances Menuhin and Dorati deliver.
No composer looms over modern jazz quite like Johann Sebastian Bach, whose harmonic rigour seems to have provided the basis for bebop and all that followed. Listen to the endlessly mutating semiquavers tumbling from Charlie Parker’s saxophone and it could be the top line of a Bach fantasia; the jolting cycle of chords in John Coltrane’s Giant Steps could come straight from a Bach fugue and Bach’s contrapuntal techniques crop up in countless jazz pianists, from Bill Evans to Nina Simone. Bach certainly casts a long shadow over US pianist Brad Mehldau: even when he’s gently mutilating pieces by Radiohead, Nick Drake or the Beatles, he sounds like Glenn Gould ripping into the Goldberg Variations. Which is why it comes as no surprise to see Mehldau recording an entire album inspired by Bach. However, this is not a jazz album. Instead of riffing on Bach themes, as the likes of Jacques Loussier or the Modern Jazz Quartet have done in the past, After Bach sees Mehldau using Bach’s methodology. Mehldau plays five of Bach’s canonic 48 Preludes and Fugues, each followed by his own modern 21st-century response.