Reviews

Vienna 1895 / America 1896 / 1900s / 1920s / 1930s / Australia 1937 / 1940s / Neville Cardus / Alexander Ruppa

1930s

Reviews from the 1930s.

The Times, 17 March 1932

B.B.C. Symphony Concert

A Beethoven Programme

An evening of Beethoven under the direction of Dr. Felix Weingartner is an event not to be missed, and Queen’s Hall was crowded last night. It began with the early “Prometheus” overture; the Pastoral Symphony and the Violin Concerto were the two big symphonic works, and the overture Leonora III, made an inspiring ending. The salient impression was one of unfailing rightness; the rightness which can allow the long stretches of the first movement of the Pastoral to be uneventful like the calm of the countryside, which can make the bird-songs at the end of the slow movement sound relevant instead of quaint, and which, after offering resistance to all temptations in the way of false climaxes, can make the culminating points of Leonora III, into towering mountain tops.

Mr. Huberman was the violinist in the concerto, and he, too, brought clear judgment as well as fine musical impulse to his interpretation. He is one of the few violinists who can give the G minor episode in the first movement its proper feeling of free improvisation while bearing in mind the inexorable tread of the four crotchets of the wind instruments; he can decorate the melody of the slow movement with exquisite fioriture without making the decoration obscure the outline; he can set a vigorous rhythm for the rondon tune of the finale without tearing at his fourth string.

But this is to describe a noble performance by negatives, and the right judgment in all things which controlled it was something very positive. These readings of Beethoven are something worth broadcasting to the world; moreover, such a concert as this gives the complete answer to those who say that the B.B.C. should confine itself to studio work, for only in the hall and before the audience there present can such delicate adjustments of musical values be fully realized.

 

New York Times, 31 Dec 1934

Huberman Heard in Violin Recital
Highest Plane of His Artistry Reached in Concerto and Sonata by Bach.
Beethoven on Program
Szymanowski Suite and His Own Version of Chopin Pieces Among Offerings

By Olin Downes

An audience which numbered among its members many musicians listened to the recital given by Bronislav Huberman, violinist, last night in Carnegie Hall. Mr Huberman had provided generous and substantial fare for his listeners. He had a small string orchestra to supplement his solo in the performance of Bach’s A minor violin concerto. After this he played the same master’s unaccompanied sonata in G minor and a movement from the third unaccompanied sonata in A minor as an encore for the first part of the program. The second part comprised the Beethoven “Kreutzer” sonata and shorter pieces by Szymanowski and Chopin-Huberman. For such a program the audience should have been a larger one, while, on the other hand, its enthusiasm must have warmed the violinist’s heart.

Mr. Huberman was at his greatest in the concerto and above all in the unaccompanied sonata of Bach. He played the concerto with the square-cut rhythm, the substantial attack and treatment of phrase that the music implies. He was not merely a soloist but the leader of the small orchestra and the interpreter of a work conceived for an ensemble. In lyrical measures he took a reasonable degree of freedom, but it was Bach form, architecture and rhythm that the performance presented, and the audience was the gainer by a string ensemble that seldom is featured in a virtuoso’s recital.

But it was in the unaccompanied sonata that Mr. Huberman reached his full height. The polyphonic music was performed with a fine clarity and a technical certainty that enabled the player to devote himself entirely to interpretive problems. An eloquence that went deeper than that of musical pattern weaving also was given it.

Bach’s unaccompanied compositions for the violin will always profoundly stir the initiated listener because of their romantic spirit and profound meanings. In the strict forms of his day, and with an incredible mastery, the master packs within the compass of four strings enough thematic material for a symphony. But it is the fact of a special and personal expression of his own which puts the sonatas apart from everything else in violin literature. One looks to the Bach chorale-preludes, or the Chromatic Fantasia, for a similar introspection, poignancy of accent, and concentration of musical means. And so Mr. Huberman played the fiery introduction, the great fugue and the lesser movements of the G minor sonata with an eloquence that revealed the spirit as well as the mind of Bach.

It would be a pleasure to say that this level was maintained throughout the concert, but the performance of Beethoven’s sonata was distinguished neither by a well-fused and rounded ensemble tone nor by a spirit wholly just to the music. That it had passion was sufficiently evident, but the effect was of nervous tensity [sic] and exaggeration. The tone quality of the violinist was often strident and his intonation inaccurate. The essentially classic proportion and beauty of Beethoven’s music of this period were impaired; nor does the fact that Beethoven marked his sonata “in uno stilo molto concertante” imply such treatment.

Mr. Huberman played the charmingly exotic and imaginative pieces of Szymanowski – “Narcisse” and “La Fontaine d’Arethuse” – with the sensuousness and color they require, and this to the delight of his audience. Two Chopin waltzes, gracefully transcribed by him, ended the printed program.

In these performances, including the special task of the “Kreutzer” sonata, Siegfried Schultze proved himself a musicianly and accomplished pianist.

 

New York Times, 20 Feb 1935

Huberman plays Brahms concerto
Violinist appears as soloist with Klemperer Directing Philadelphia Orchestra.
Beethoven ‘Eroica’ given
Cherubini ‘Anacreon’ Overture Rounds out program offered by visiting musicians

By Olin Downes

Otto Klemperer returned to New York as guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra when that organization performed last night in Carnegie Hall. The assisting soloist was Bronislaw Huberman, who played the Brahms violin concerto. The concert was an impressive one in several respects; in none more so that the contagious passion, sincerity and loftiness of spirit with which Mr. Klemperer presented classic masterpieces.

He began the concert with the Cherubini “Anacreon” overture and concluded with Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. This was a fine thought, for Cherubini, in the overture heard last night, is a worthy prelude to Beethoven. The two works – overture and symphony – were composed almost at the same time, and first performed within two years of each other. Cherubini’s score is thinner in substance and small by the side of the towering “Eroica.” But it is strong and impetuous music, distinguished in its style and its classic mold, and it strikes fire today, a century and a quarter after it was written. It is the music of a composer for whom Beethoven had a deep respect, and who had for Beethoven the same kind of esteem – that of two strong men and true artists for each other. The friendship was ungloved but enduring. Each man spoke his mind, without precaution or ceremony, and each felt indebtedness to the other. That is a historic fact, but more strikingly than by any exterior fact is the truth of it borne out by the nature of Cherubini’s music.

Mr. Huberman’s performance of the Brahms concerto was distinguished of course by ample technic and by the qualities and spirit of the born virtuoso. He is an artist of the experience and authority which equip him to interpret a work of the dimensions of the D major concerto with an authoritative grasp of the composition as a whole, and to deliver certain passages with the sweep and breadth of line of a greatly gifted artist. It would be pleasant to say that there were no untoward features to balance these fine attributes. But that is not so. The tone was often strident, the style feverish. The interpreter obtruded himself overmuch, and delivered all passages with so much emphasis – overemphasis – elocutionary emphasis – dotting all “i’s” and crossing all “t’s” so sedulously that details were exaggerate, while a latent theatricalism suffused the conception. The tendency to play sharp is in all probability a deliberate one. The violinist of Mr. Huberman’s temperament doubtless desires the maximum of brilliancy when his tone is to match that of the orchestra. This brilliancy, however, is with him achieved at cost of pure intonation and tone quality. Tone in fact was forced, and the inherent repose which is obviously a quality of the great symphonic composition was conspicuous by absence.

The purely critical could find points on which to differ with Mr. Klemperer’s treatment of the symphony, but it would be disproportionate to insist on these in the face of his noble and dramatic interpretation. He felt profoundly the essential grandeur and emotional intensity of this incommensurable music. He read it in a fashion which deeply moved his listeners. It may be said that any adequate interpretation of the “Eroica” would do that, but what does “adequate” mean? An adequate interpretation of the “Eroica” means in the first place the conviction and the lofty comprehension of the lonely colossus of a symphony which Klemperer possesses in an exceptional degree. He is surcharged and overwhelmed with it. He is entirely oblivious of the personal interests of the baton-wielder when he conveys it. Particularly stirring were the first and last movements, grand in line, eloquent of detail, profound in meaning. The slow movement should have had a slower tempo, and one more steadily maintained. Even so, it fell upon the ears as music of searing intensity and grandeur. The horns in the trio of the scherzo played their difficult measures beautifully, but rather too lightly, so that this movement was a beautiful sylvan mystery, but had not all of its potency. But the performance of the finale was one of exceptional vividness and exultant power.

 

New York Times, 24 Feb 1935

Sonata Program Stirs Enthusiasm
Schnabel and Huberman Pool Unusual Gifts in Concert at the Town Hall
Ensemble a Notable One
Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert Classics in Weighty List Presented

That ordinarily sedate affair, the sonata concert, took on some of the excitement of a virtuoso recital when Artur Schnabel and Bronislaw Huberman collaborated in an afternoon of piano and violin chamber music in the Town Hall yesterday. Shouts and stampings of the feet were mingled with waves of energetic hand-clapping in a demonstration at the close of a long and arduous program devoted to Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, with the later and weightier compositions placed first. This was an event of progressively eloquent playing, with both artists at their best at the end of the list.

Perhaps the choice of the Brahms D minor sonata was not an altogether wise one for the opening of this concert. Projected with much of fire and intensity, it was over-dramatized in a nervous, feverish manner that cost it some of its breadth and sweep. The slow movement partook of the sentimental, and Mr. Huberman’s tone, while of luscious quality, was frequently sharp as to pitch.

Thereafter, Beethoven’s G major sonata, Opus 96, with its recollections of the Austrian countryside, found its interpreters, the one a Carinthian by birth, the other a Viennese by adoption, on hallowed ground. The pastoral suggestions of all save the final rondo, which savors of Viennese popular song; the invocation of nature in the opening allegro, the happy reverie of the adagio, the peasant jollity of the scherzo, were evoked with a mellow and retrospective charm, as if stored with memories of another day. The ensemble was as notable as the individual playing.

Mozart’s B flat major sonata (K. 378), written in Salzburg when the composer was 23, is among his more dramatic ventures in this form, though cheerful in tone and possessing one of his most singing slow movements. It was exquisitely played, with Mr. Schnabel’s piano tone matching that of the violinist in color and sensitiveness. Even more enchanting were the delicacy, the warmth, the touch of “the pathos of distance,” that enforced Schubert’s infrequently played C major “Fantasie,” composed within a year of his death. Mr Huberman communicated at the opening a vision as of another world. On the purely technical side, Mr. Schnabel’s scale passages and trills in the variations of the andantino were of consummate grace and finish. Here was a performance to linger with those who heard it.

O.T.

 

New York Times, 26 May 1935

Newly recorded music by Compton Pakenham

In Masterworks Set No. 210 is the Bach concert No. 1, in A minor, by Huberman and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

As far as memory serves, Bronislaw Huberman has not appeared on a domestic list since Masterworks Set No. 131. In this he gave a spirited if rather uneven performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Berlin State Orchestra. Here, again, vigor is the essential feature of his work, and his approach to Bach strikes one as more deferential than the spirit in which, five years ago, he attacked Tchaikovsky. In the interval, recording technique has developed considerably, and probably to this may be attributed the most noticeable difference between the two Huberman sets. In the Bach the balance in the orchestra and with the soloist is well-nigh perfect.

 

New York Times, 8 Feb 1936

Noted Musicians Give Trio Recital
Schnabel, Pianist; Huberman, Violinist, and Feuermann, ’Cellist, Are Heard.
First Program Together
Concert Opens With Brahms Opus – Beethoven and Schubert Works Also Played.

Three musicians of world-wide repute, Artur Schnabel, pianist; Bronislaw Huberman, violnist, and Emanuel Feuermann, ’cellist, combined their talents in a recital of trios at the Town Hall last night.

For this sixth event in the town Hall endowment series, these celebrities came forward in a program consisting of the trio in B major, Op. 8, of Brahms, in the revised version; the trio in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, by Beethoven, and the trio in B flat major, Op. 99, by Schubert.

The greatest artists, no matter how experienced they may be in ensemble playing, require long practice as a group to reach their real stride in the performance of works of the nature of those attempted on this occasion. It happens that although Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Huberman had joined forces in the past, this was the first time anywhere that they appeared with Mr. Feuermann in an evening of trio playing.

It was not strange, under the circumstances, that the Brahms trio, which opened the list, was not up to the standard of excellence expected of musicians of this high caliber. Each of their temperaments was in conflict throughout a large part of the interpretation of this work, with the result that if certain sections were satisfactorily played, as a whole the rendition was uneven and none too convincing.

Mr. Feuermann proved himself an ensemble artist of high attainments from the start of the evening. His rich, warm tone was eminently suited to the demands of the Brahms selection. He brought to the interpretation the romantic element.

There was rhythmic charm in the finale of the Brahms, but the adagio, which moved at a snail’s pace, said virtually nothing. Perhaps the most remarkable detail of this Brahms reading was Mr. Schnabel’s miraculous handling of that bugbear of all pianists, the swift passage in descending and then ascending arpeggio near the close of the scherzo. In flying pianissimo passages of this sort he now and again afforded like thrills of admiration in the later trios on the schedule.

With the Beethoven trio which followed, the balance of tone improved, and while this work has been as ably presented by performers of individual gifts of a lower order, its interpretation was nearer anticipations than what had gone before.

This creation of Beethoven’s, which is known as the “Ghost” trio, because of the mystic nature of its largo movement, found the three artists particularly at one in the famous slow division of the opus. – Mr. Schnabel’s shadowy tremolos and the mysterious phrases arising from Mr. Feuermann’s ’cello produced much of the atmosphere of haunted melancholy needed here.

But it was the final offering, by Schubert, which showed off the gifts of the performers as ensemble artists to the best advantage. It was played without any of the sentimentality that many of its suave melodies easily encourage and was ingratiatingly free of dynamic exaggerations.

N.S.

 

New York Times, 29 Feb 1936

[This was the concert where the Stradivarius was stolen. To read the New York Times report of the robbery which was printed the same day as this review, click here.]

Huberman Heard in Carnegie Hall
Large Audience Witnesses the Violinist in Dual Role of Soloist and Conductor.
Bach Concerto Praised
He Presents Number in Informal Style, Relegating Display to the Background.

The huge audience which packed Carnegie Hall last night to hear Bronislaw Huberman, the Polish violinist, in his first recital of the season, witnessed the unusual sight, at such an event, of a soloist acting from time to time as conductor of an accompanying chamber orchestra. This ensemble, consisting of some twoscore musicians from the Philharmonic-Symphony and the National Orchestral Association, supported Mr. Huberman in the Bach concerto in E major and two Mozart numbers.

With nods of the head and occasional flourishings of the bow, by way of signals to the strings and pianoforte employed in the Bach accompaniment, Mr. Huberman went through the Bach concerto in informal style, putting all his attention on bringing out the beauties of the music to the best of his abilities. Here he relegated display to the background, with especially laudable results in the adagio movement of the work, which he sang forth with throbbing lyricism and a sensitive tone of unadulterated purity and silken quality.

His performances through the evening were not, it is true, of unblemished quality. In the opening movement of the concerto and in the final there were inaccuracies of pitch and imperfections of timbre. When driven too hard his bow evoked a wiry and strident tone. This climbing to pinnacles and then clambering down from the heights occurred more than once during the evening.

It was a pleasure to listen to the seldom attempted Mozart adagio in F major (Koechel, No. 261), written probably for the Salzburg violinist, Brunetti, for use in the composer’s violin concerto in A major. It is unusually melodious, even for Mozart, and Mr. Huberman brought out the fascinating thematic material with much charm of phrasing and delightful attention to detail.

Even finer was the playing of the Mozart rondo in C major, in the accompaniment of which, as in the adagio, wind instruments were added to the orchestra. Mr. Huberman bestowed upon the rondo all the needed grace and refinement and read its ingratiating measures with imagination held within the bounds of true Mozartean style.

As a whole Mr. Huberman’s rendition of the Bach chaconne was in the grand manner. It was given with technical security and was especially impressive in its climactic moments, which were unusually powerful in tonal volume and intensity. The violinist interrupted his performance of the composition twice, once to tighten his bow and agin to attend to a slipping string, but these momentary halts did nothing to interfere with the authoritative effect of the interpretation as an entity.

Mr. Huberman, with Jakob Gimpel at the piano, next performed the César Franck sonata. The soloist also was heard in a group comprising Szymanowski, Chopin-Huberman and Brahms-Joachim numbers.

 

New York Times, 6 Apr 1936

Sonata Program at the Town Hall
Schnabel and Huberman Give Joint Recital of Works for Piano and Violin.
Beethoven Items Played
Foreign Artists Complete Their Offering With Compositions of Brahms and Mozart.

Considering the packed houses which greeted Artur Schnabel during the recent series of Beethoven recitals here, the small size of the audience gathered at Town Hall yesterday afternoon to hear the Austrian pianist and Bronislaw Huberman in a program of violin and piano sonatas seemed rather surprising. As unanticipated was the moderate amount of enthusiasm which the performances of the twain aroused in their chaste and rather austere program.

Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Huberman, each long looked up to abroad as the leading Beethoven exponent of his particular instrument, combined their talents yesterday in two of that composer’s sonatas, the important example in C minor, Op. 30, No. 2, and the sonata in F major, Op. 24, popularly known as the “Spring” sonata. Between these on the list were placed the sonata in G major, Op. 78, by Brahms, and Mozart’s sonata in E flat major (Koechel, 481).

Except for the G major sonata, Op. 96, all of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano were early works written about the time of the First and Second symphonies. They do not represent Beethoven at his full maturity as a composer. But the one in C minor chosen to open yesterday’s program is one of the most serious and effective of the lot.

In its interpretation, Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Huberman gave a mannered account of the work, in which spontaneity was annihilated by finicking attention to detail. Much of it was highly finished technically, and there was a good balance of tone maintained, except that as the more dominant personality and the more tempermentally[sic] aggressive, Mr. Schnabel tended to draw more attention to the piano than should have been the case.

There was no attempt at display or even to achieve brilliance in any of this playing. It was deadly serious – singularly lacking in charm, in power to awaken a keen response in the listener, or to grasp attention firmly – sometimes in the Beethoven sonata in question, stretches of much suavity of tone would issue from the instruments. But often Mr. Schnabel’s fortissimo outbursts gave the impression of anger and irritation in their curt abruptness, where these qualities were intruders in the scheme of things, and still more often, Mr. Huberman’s violin emitted sounds not any too sharply defined in pitch and of scratchy character.

The Brahms sonata proved somewhat more successful in attaining mood and eloquence than the Beethoven. The adagio was on the whole a well-sustained bit of ensemble work, especially impressive in the cooring applied in the concluding section. It would have been still more effective, however, had the octave figure marked “forte” in the B minor episode not been augmented to a strenuous fortissimo at its every appearance with coarsening result.

But best of the playing heard by this reviewer was the Mozart sonata. In this, both performers went more directly and unaffectedly to work, so that it had a more sincere and wholesome atmosphere about it. But even in this composition more sensitiveness of nuance and of color would not have been amiss. There was something rather cut and dried and academic about it all, for Mozart, though least so in the well delivered adagio.

N.S.

 

New York Times, 19 Jul 1936

by Compton Pakenham

[after discussing Heifez’s Sibelius recording with Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic … ]

Simultaneously, Columbia takes us back more than a century and a quarter to Mozart’s violin concerto No. 3 in G (K. 216), played by Bronislaw Huberman and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Issai Dobrowen (Masterworks Album No. 258). As to the number of violin concertos composed by Mozart, and even the authenticity of one or two attributed to him, there seems to be some question, but in this particular case there can be no possible doubt whatever.

With four others, it dates from the prolific Salzburg year of 177, and in the tale of his development toward mastery of the form it marks an important step. For its structure, the freedom with which he handles the solo instrument and his orchestra, the Mozartian flow with which the alterations dovetail and the concise directness of the whole, this third concerto might be in an entirely different genre to the two preceding it.

Of Huberman’s recording and his gramophone work with the Vienna Philharmonic there is but little to add to the comments made here in connection with the two Bach concertos of some months back. Here the same understanding between soloist and orchestra and a well-nigh perfect relationship in the matter of recording are in evidence. A couple of flaws in the upper register may be the fault of our reproducing instrument, but Huberman’s lower tones are stronger than ever. If there has been a recording of this concerto since that by Jelly d’Aranyi in, gramophonically, the ancient days, it has escaped our notice – which is peculiar, for of Mozart’s violin concertos this remains our preference.

 

New York Times, 28 Mar 1937

SCHNABEL HEARD WITH HUBERMAN; Pianist and Violinist Offer Their First Sonata Evening of Season at Town Hall

Artur Schnabel, pianist, and Bronislaw Huberman, violinist, offered one of their occasional sonata evenings at Town Hall last night. The two celebrated artists had not been heard here in a program of the kind since last season, and in the interim their playing had not taken on any new aspects.

[Unfortunately the rest of the review is missing. The pieces played were Beethoven Sonata in G, Op. 30, No. 3, Schumann Sonata in D minor, Op. 121, Mozart Sonata in B flat, (K. 454), and Beethoven Sonata in A, Op. 47, “Kreutzer”]

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