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Reviews: Paganini: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 4 - Henryk Szeryng

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Reviews: 5

Site review by Polly Nomial February 2, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by terence December 10, 2007 (14 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Another splendid quadraphonic remastering from Pentatone. The solo violin in particular is beautifully captured, balanced perhaps just a little ahead of what might be a normal "concert hall" perspective, but not obtrusively so - orchestral detail is in no way occluded.

There's plenty of depth and width to the orchestral soundstage, rear speakers used discreetly but tellingly to fill out the venue sonically.

Szeryng's performances are superbly musical, poised yet also highly virtuosic when necessary (that's most of the time, actually....). There's no element of "showing off" whatsoever in his playing, which is not to say it hasn't got plenty of fire in its belly, because it has, definitely. It's just that Szeryng wasn't that kind of showy musician, just one heck of a good, tasteful violinist.

Once again this kind of release makes you wonder exactly how far (if at all) the art of sound engineering has advanced since this type of recording was first being made by the Philips team of the period. I find the results a great deal more involving and musically satisfying than most of the DDD multichannel recordings in my collection.

In short, highly recommended. Thank you Pentatone - keep those quad remasters coming!

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Review by canonical May 22, 2012 (8 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  

I have many, many recordings of this violin showpiece, as it is a piece I studied when I was a young teen. My favourite recordings include a young Itzhak Perlman, the superbly brilliant (but short-lived) Michael Rabin, and Nathan Milstein. It may not be a very deep piece, but I enjoy it as it was intended ... a piece written to show off technique. That is its purpose.

The Szeryng performance is a bit lacking in this regard. The arpeggio sequences are less than fluid, the tenths are clumsy and scratchy, the slides are awkward, and mostly, it just lacks dazzle or brilliance. On balance, it is a 'solid' performance but it is also the least satisfying performance I have heard by the usually stellar Szeryng, and perhaps the most stodgy and least dazzling recorded performance I have heard of the Paganini No1. To be fair, this is a piece that is usually tackled by wunderkids eager to show off their technical wizardry As this was recorded in 1975, Szeryng would have been 57 at the time, which is a remarkable age to be playing such pyrotechnics but I don't think he entirely gets away with it.

Szeryng plays the August Wilhelm cadenza in No1 (not overly exciting), and his own cadenza in No.4 (much more interesting). Overall, Concerto No.4 probably comes across more successfully than No.1.


The sonics are super. It is a late analogue recording (1975) with direct conversion to DSD. The orchestra has the usual slightly congested sound of the time, and there is the odd occasional crackle and pop or ambient noise. But overall, the sonics have a natural and faithful reproduction of the sound of the era. Comparing to recent EMI releases, the difference is most noticeable: the sound on the Pentatone Paganini SACD is clean and natural ... there is none of the ugly graininess, nor the disturbing digital distortion that one finds on the dubious recent EMI SACD re-issues.


Performance: 3
Sonics: 4.5 (reviewed in stereo)
Box: proper SuperJewel Box
Recording resolution: Analog 1975 recording direct DSD conversion

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Review by Luukas July 1, 2015 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Niccolo Paganini was the greatest violinist of his time - his technique was awesome and the black hair and long nose awaked fear in people.
This impressive disc contains two Violin Concertos which are rarely seen on SACD - the familiar First Concerto in D major and quite unknown Fourth [Concerto] in D minor. The performances are from the highest standards: Henryk Szeryng is brilliant violinist! He has an golden tone and he really uses it. The violin's low register - G string - shines on the DSD remastering. The surround sound gives more dimensions to the attractive performances. Sir Alexander Gibson is trustworthy musician - the cooperation between the soloist and conductor is admirable.
Highly recommend for all violinists and music lovers, definitely!

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Review by astome September 20, 2015 (2 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This historic RQR recording I like most in stereo with tube amplification, horn speakers and a serious bass fundament. With that there is an incredible holographic image of the violin in contrast to the LSO.
Paganinis seemingly unnatural ability was marked as that he sold his soul to the devil, but Szeryng effectively did his best not to get too close. In contrast he pointed up a different way: that delightful articulation, those subtly differentiated and intense tone colours of this instrument I've never heard before. For some times one thinks of a very pure non-blown Piccolo flute, but it's still a violin. An excellent performance.

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