ELGAR:  Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 61.  BRUCH:  Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 28
Yehudi Menuhin, violin/London Symphony Orch/Sir Edward Elgar cond.(in Elgar), and Sir Landon Ronald (in Bruch).

NAXOS 110902  (B)  (ADD)  TT:  73:00

Elgar would be dead two years later, but when he recorded his 1910 violin concerto in 1932 with the 16-year-old Yehudi Menuhin (Fritz Kreisler for whom it was composed couldn't make the London sessions), there was no dawdling, no "grand old man(nerisms)" in his incisive leadership. The sum, from Abbey Road Studio No. 1, is four minutes quicker than Nigel Kennedy's 1984 version with Vernon Handley, and arguably the best "modern" version of the piece. But stay away from no-longer-Nigel's recent revisionisms; they sound round the bend.

Menuhin had yet, back then, to question why he played as he'd been taught—when that time came, his career derailed for several years, and afterwards he never completely recovered the technical poise and panache exhibited here. It is a classic recording in every sense, and a superb job of restoration by Mark Obert-Thorn (no one uses the CEDAR-2 de-clicking module with more finesse or less obtrusively).

The companion performance of Bruch's G minor Concerto, made 10 months earlier in London's Small Queen's Hall, was led by Sir Landon Ronald, rather more than a journeyman Brit but less than a podium celebrity of the Henry Wood, Hamilton Harty or Thomas Beecham cut. It was very purely played by Master Menuhin, and remarkably well recorded for its vintage and venue.

Uncredited notes are somewhat less organized or insightful than Naxos'latterday norm, with one truly unfortunate misuse of language: Lady Elgar was not "imprudent" as written here, but "improvident" rather, yet hardly penniless. Must have been an editor's day off.

R.D. (APRIL 2003)