Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Violin Concerto / Heifetz


This TAS List Shaded Dog has AMAZINGLY NATURAL violin tone, especially on side two, which earned a seriously good grade of A++. This side two will show you exactly what Living Stereo Magic is all about. The violin is very well recorded, and with a side two as good as this one you hear just how big and rich it can sound.

Side one is actually even more Tubey Magical, but it’s a classic case of too much of a good thing, with more tube smear than we would like. It’s musical when the violin solos but a bit much when the orchestra comes in.

Side Two

With A++ sound this side was hard to fault — until the music gets loud, and then it can get a bit shrill. The sound is rich and spacious and surprisingly dynamic. The violin tone is ROTM — Right On The Money. It’s full-bodied and clear but somewhat recessed compared to the best we’ve played.

Side One

Nearly as good! The violin tone is a bit more veiled, recessed and smeary, so we’ve dropped the grade to A+ to A++.

Tubey Magic and Tube Smear

Both sides suffer from a bit of the all-too-common tube smear, no doubt from the mastering chains and record presses that were in use at the time. (Most modern mastering chains and record presses are, to our ears, even worse, so this is not to denigrate the engineers at RCA in any way. It’s simply to say that with Tubey Magic you often get at least some tubey smear.)

Heavy Vinyl

Classic did this title on heavy vinyl back in the day, which is only fitting since it is one of the better Heifetz recordings. Their version was pretty awful, as bad as LSC 1903, 1992, 2129 and others too numerous to list.

The Classic is both aggessive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear. If you have the Classic, do your own shootout. We guarantee this pressing will murder theirs.

(The Cisco release of LSC 2577 was quite poor also. We never bothered to carry it. Positive review by Michael Fremer though, nothing new there. Is there any heavy vinyl pressing that he doesn’t like? Oh yes, of course: every record ever released by Simply Vinyl, I almost forgot.)

Sibelius Violin Concerto

This is the only concerto that Sibelius wrote, though he composed several other smaller-scale pieces for solo instrument and orchestra, including the six Humoresques for violin and orchestra.

One noteworthy feature of the work is the way in which an extended cadenza for the soloist takes on the role of the development section in the sonata form first movement. Donald Tovey described the final movement as a “polonaise for polar bears.” [4] However, he was not intending to be derogatory, as he went on: “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto”.

Much of the violin writing is purely virtuosic, but even the most showy passages alternate with the melodic. This concerto is generally symphonic in scope, departing completely from the often lighter, “rhythmic” accompaniments of many other concertos. The solo violin and all sections of the orchestra have equal voice in the piece.

Although the work has been described as having “broad and depressing” melodies,[citation needed] several brighter moments appear against what is essentially a dark melodic backdrop.