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Joseph Szigeti - The Complete Columbia Album Collection [17 CDs]

Joseph Szigeti - The Complete Columbia Album Collection [17 CDs]

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Sony Classical is pleased to announce the release of a 17-CD box set collecting the recordings made between 1940 and 1956 for American Columbia by the renowned Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti.

Szigeti had a remarkable career. Born in 1892 in Budapest, where he studied with Jenő Hubay, one of most celebrated virtuosos and teachers of that golden era of violin playing, he was praised by the iconic German violinist Joseph Joachim at his Berlin debut in 1905; lived in London for several years following his acclaimed 1907 debut and played chamber music with, among others, Myra Hess and Ferruccio Busoni; was a frequent visitor after the war to the Soviet Union, where he introduced Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto; made his triumphant American debut at Carnegie Hall under Stokowski in 1925; toured the world during the 1930s before finally settling in the US in 1940.

It was in that year that Szigeti renewed his friendship with fellow Hungarian émigré Béla Bartók, and in April the two gave a now-legendary recital in Washington which featured Bartók’s First Violin Rhapsody of 1928 – a work dedicated to and premiered by Szigeti in Europe. In May 1940, Columbia recorded their interpretation of this “vehicle for Szigeti’s biting and wholly magnificent fiddling” (MusicWeb International) in New York. That performance appears here for the first time on CD, along with another important work by Bartók, the classic first recording of his Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano, written for and performed with Szigeti and Benny Goodman.

The rest of the new collection displays many more treasures of Szigeti’s passionate dedication to chamber music: in Bach, Handel, Tartini, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Dvořák, Debussy, Ravel, Bloch, Busoni, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Henry Cowell, collaborating with such artists as Andor Foldes – another Hungarian émigré – as well as with Mieczyslaw Horzowski, Myra Hess, Pablo Casals and Igor Stravinsky.

There are, of course, major orchestral works represented in the new Szigeti edition, including two towering concertos in D major – the Brahms, recorded in 1945 with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Beethoven, recorded in 1947 with Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic (“an account of impassioned grandeur” – MusicWeb International) – along with Busoni’s early Violin Concerto in D major, recorded in 1954 with Thomas Sherman conducting the Little Orchestra Society. Szigeti’s numerous Bach concerto recordings for Columbia are here as well, conducted by Casals, Fritz Stiedry and George Szell.

As Nathan Milstein, one of his great colleagues, said in a touching tribute to Szigeti, who died in 1973: “He was an incredibly cultured musician. Actually, his talent grew out of his culture. … I always admired him, and he was respected by musicians.” In his late years, Joseph Szigeti finally got the appreciation he deserved from the general public as well. Sony Classical’s new collection his Columbia recordings, many never before released on CD at Sony Classical, can only further enhance that appreciation.


Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973) was the violinistic equivalent of a “kunst diva”, just as Gidon Kremer is today. He never had a particularly beautiful tone, while his bowing and intonation grew less dependable with age. Yet Szigeti never put a wrong musical foot forward. His phrasing communicated form, character, architecture, and astute harmonic awareness, with musical considerations always taking precedence over physical expediency.

Sony/BMG’s 17-CD collection of Szigeti’s complete Columbia Masterworks recordings stands out for exemplary remasterings that stem from the best possible source material. His intense yet thoughtful collaborations with Mieczyslaw Horszowski in Beethoven’s Sonatas Nos. 1, 5, 6, and 10 have never sounded so full-bodied and detailed as they do here. The same goes for the 1947 Beethoven Concerto, where the New York Philharmonic turns in firm and insightfully aligned playing under Bruno Walter’s direction. It contrasts to the conductor’s relatively casual and deferential backing in Szigeti’s 1932 recording, which, however, finds Szigeti on far better form.

Rehearing Szigeti’s 1949 Bach Sonata No. 3 in C major for violin solo reminded me just how much more fluent and controlled this performance is in comparison to the violinist’s relatively tenuous Vanguard remake. Likewise, his masterful 1940 account of the D minor concerto based on Bach’s keyboard concerto BWV 1052 is technically, musically, and sonically superior to the bloated 1950 reading under Pablo Casals’ direction. Szigeti’s Casals Festival contributions are admittedly uneven.

His collaborations with Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Henry Cowell are both historically important and musically illuminating. Somehow the older Szigeti’s wiry tone imparts welcome character and tension to sonatas by Hindemith, Ravel, and Busoni, as well as the rarely heard Prokofiev solo sonata and Busoni concerto. It must be said, though, that the latter’s final scherzando-like passages are heavy going for the veteran violinist, as are the Busoni sonata’s overextended fugal sequences.

Listeners expecting suaveness and elegance in Brahms’ G major Op. 78 and D minor Op. 108 sonatas with Horszowski may wince at Szigeti’s tremulous and effortful execution. Still, he makes every note count, and the aching fragility that emerges from Op. 78’s outer movements and Op. 108’s deliberately unfolding third movement compels my undivided attention. Yet this Brahms D minor pales next to the power and authority of Szigeti’s great 78 rpm edition with pianist Egon Petri. As for the short encore-type pieces favored in the shellac era, Szigeti plays them dutifully rather than lovingly; he wasn’t a charmer like Kreisler, Elman, Milstein, or Ricci. Or Heifetz, for that matter.

The booklet includes full discographical data, an informative essay by Tully Potter, and Szigeti’s own notes for a 1970 Japanese reissue of his Schubert recordings. Even if just half of this collection represents Szigeti at his best, Sony/BMG’s comprehensive and meticulous production values deserve the highest accolades. In the meantime, a complete edition of Szigeti’s pre-war European 78s is long overdue.

-- (Jed Distler)

The 31 works, from sonatas to chamber works to concertos, span Bach and Beethoven to Debussy, Ravel, Busoni and Henry Cowell. Bartók is pianist in his own Rhapsody No 1 for Violin and Piano. All the Brahms, including the Trio No 2 in C major with Hess and Casals, is to treasure. Szigeti plays Dvořák with grace and melancholy, and gives bite and attack to Stravinsky. The style may be redolent of another era, yet still this playing speaks to us.

Guardian (UK)

This is a quite wonderful set, one of the highlights being an all-Busoni disc, the Second Sonata with Mieczysπaw Horszowski and the Violin Concerto with the Little Orchestra Society under Thomas Sherman. No one listening could fail to grasp the profound level of Szigeti's musical understanding.



Bartók: Violin Rhapsody No. 1, Sz.87 (Remastered)   
Bartók: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, Sz.111   
Bloch: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life for Violin and Piano (Remastered)   
Milhaud (arr. Lévy): Saudades do Brasil, Op. 67: No. 9, Sumare (Remastered)   
Falla (arr. Levy): El Sombrero de Tres Picos, Parte I, Danza de la molinera (Remastered)   
Mozart: Divertimento No. 15 in B-Flat Major, K. 287, "2. Lodronsche Nachtmusik" (Remastered)   

Mussorgsky-Rachmaninoff: Sorochintsy Fair, Act III: No. 5, Gopak (Remastered)   
Dvorák (arr. Kreisler): Slavonic Dance in E Minor, Op. 46, No. 2 (Arr. in G Minor) (Remastered)   
Dvorák (arr. Kreisler): Slavonic Dance No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 46, No. 3 (Arr. in E Minor) (Remastered)   
Hubay: Scènes de la Csárda No.4, Op. 32, "Hejre Kati", I. Lento ma non troppo. Allegro moderato (Remastered)   
Hubay: Scènes de la Csárda No.4, Op. 32, "Hejre Kati", II. Allegro molto (Remastered)   
Kodály (arr. Szigeti): Háry János Suite, IZK 26: V. Intermezzo (Remastered)   
Brahms: 21 Hungarian Dances for Orchestra, WoO 1: No. 5 in G Minor (Remastered)   
Debussy: Violin Sonata No.3 in G Minor, L. 140 (Remastered)   
Hubay: The Zephyr, Op. 30, No. 5 (Remastered)   
Schubert, Francois: Bagatelle Op. 13, No. 9, "Die Biene" (Remastered)   
Stravinsky: Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano   
Stravinsky: Pastorale, Song without Words for Violin & Woodwind Quartet   
Stravinsky: Russian Maiden's Song   

Beethoven (Cadenza: Joseph Joachim): Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61   

Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77   
Brahms: Violin Sonata No.3 in D Minor, Op.108: II. Adagio   

Beethoven: Violin Sonata No.1 in D Major, Op. 12, No. 1 (Remastered)   
Schubert: Violin Sonata in D Major, D.384   
Schubert (arr. Friedberg): Piano Sonata No.17 in D Major, D.850: IV. Rondo. Allegretto moderato (Remastered)   
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No.7 in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2 (Remastered)   

Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No.1 in F Minor, Op. 80 (Remastered)   
Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94bis (Remastered)   

Bach, J.S.: Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005   
Bach, J.S. (arr. Reitz): Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052   

Schubert: Fantaisie for Piano & Violin in C Major, Op.Posth. 159, D. 934   
Corelli (arr. H. Leonard): Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op.5 No.12 "La Folia" (Variations Serieuses)   
Debussy (arr. Roelens): Suite bergamasque, L. 75: No. 3. Clair de lune   
Lalo (arr. Szigeti): Aubade from "Le Roi d'Ys" (Act III)   
Tchaikovsky: 6 Pieces, Op. 51: No. 6, Valse sentimentale   
Bach, J.S. (arr. Szigeti): Violin Partita No.3 in E Major, BWV 1006: VI. Bourrée (Remastered)   

Bach, J.S.: Concerto for Flute, Violin and Keyboard in A Minor, BWV 1044 (Remastered)   
Bach, J.S.: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, (arr. BWV 1052/1056) (Remastered)   
Bach, J.S.: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050   

DISC 10:
Schubert: Rondo in B Minor for Piano and Violin, D.895 (Op.70) "Rondeau brillant"   
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No.10 in G Major, Op. 96 (Remastered)   
Schubert: Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 162. D. 574 "Grand Duo" (Remastered)   

DISC 11:
Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60   
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major Op. 87   

DISC 12:
Cowell: Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1945) (Remastered)   
Shapero: Sonata for Piano Four Hands (1941) (Remastered) (Harold Shapero, piano; Leo Smit, piano)
Cowell: Celestial Vision: How Old Is Song? (Remastered)   

DISC 13:
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No.5 in F Major, Op. 24 "Spring"   
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30, No. 1   

DISC 14:
Bach, J.S. (arr. Szigeti): Violin Concerto in G Minor, BWV 1056 (Remastered)   
Handel: Violin Sonata in D Major, HWV 371 (Remastered)   
Tartini (Cadenzas: Szigeti): Violin Concerto in D Minor, D. 45 (Remastered)   
Tartini: Violin Sonata in G Major, B. G19 (Remastered)   

DISC 15:
Ravel: Violin Sonata No.2 in G Major, M. 77   
Hindemith: Violin Sonata in E Major (1939)   
Prokofiev: Sonata for Solo Violin in D Major, Op. 115 (Remastered)   
Prokofiev: Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, Op. 35bis (Remastered)   

DISC 16:
Busoni: Violin Concerto, Op.35a, BV 243   
Busoni: Violin Sonata No.2, Op.36a, BV 244   

DISC 17:
Brahms: Violin Sonata No.1 in G Major, Op. 78 "Regen" (Remastered)   
Brahms: Violin Sonata No.3 in D Minor, Op.108 (Remastered)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 17
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Sony Masterworks SRM 2
    • UPC/Barcode: 190759403525
    • Item Number: 19075940352