I’m very happy to present this recording of the Bartók 2nd Violin Sonata by Tossy Spivakovsky and Artur Balsam, issued in late 1947 by Concert Hall Society. Odessa born Spivakovsky (1906-1998) was actually trained in Berlin, and was appointed concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic at the age of 18. Later, in the US, he was Artur Rodzinski’s concertmaster with the Cleveland Orchestra, where he gave the American premiere of the Bartók 2nd Violin Concerto. His solo career was perhaps not the success it could have been, but his playing reflects an intriguing mixture of virtuoso pedigree and musicological concerns (he gave much thought to issues of execution of chords in the solo works of Bach, apparently holding the bow above the frog to facilitate “grabbing” the chord all at once, which was a controversial idea then and now).
This was the first studio recording of the work, as the earlier Szigeti/Bartók version was a live performance only issued later. It’s a very different approach from his, cultivating more tonal and violinist beauty compared to Szigeti’s more sharply etched (and, of course, very idiomatic) style. But both Spivakovsky and Balsam find such beauty and variety that I think it’s a valid point of view, and the violinism is of a very high caliber indeed! It reminds me very much of the approach Christian Ferras takes (in a superb performance issued on DVD by VAI), which takes great pains to savor the beauty and connection of the intervals that traditional wisdom would say are dissonant and more of a non linear, pointillist variety. The Roumanian Folk Dances are played with a great depth of tone, very secure artificial harmonics, and a few slightly overripe effects, but it’s still something to savor. It’s a shame that only four of the dances are performed.
An aside: this happened to be one of my first recordings of Bartók’s music. Somehow this set was in a collection I was given when I was 12 or 13 years old……..and I absolutely loved this “difficult” work right away! Luckily I didn’t completely destroy this (vinyl 78) set in my enthusiasm for it, as that is the copy that I have transfered here!
Bartók: Violin Sonata No. 2
Four Roumanian Dances
Tossy Spivakovsky, Violin
Artur Balsam, Piano
recorded c. 1947
Concert Hall Society Album AA (1033/35)