ARTEK Recordings

Reviews of CD 7

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Elmar Oliveira's own notes to his Artek recital makes it clear that the pieces he has included aren't just "favorite encores" but rather works associated with violinists who made a deep impression on him. Michael Rabin: Meditation. Heifetz: Gershwin, Achron, and Kroll. Milstein: Smetana, Novacek, and Mussorgsky. Kreisler: the rest (although Heifetz and Milstein also played Gluck's Melodie). In fact, he proposes to carry his listener back to an earlier era. Since even highly respected violinists who've played tributes to great violinists like Kreisler and Heifetz often seem bland in comparison with the prototype's strong individuality, taking on four of them in one recital seems audacious, even reckless. The only way to come away unscathed is to do what Elman (later made available on Vanguard OVC 8028) and Francescatti (Columbia ML-5255, an LP that begs to be rereleased) did in their programs of Kreisler pieces: Each filtered the composer's miniatures through his own dominating personality: Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead! To the extent that Oliveira succeeds, he does so in the very same way. After all, even if anyone could sustain a colorable imitation of four Olympian violinists through more than 74 minutes, the result might not seem an unqualified success.

Whatever the violinist's reverence for earlier performances, though, most of these stand on their own two feet. Oliveira possesses a transcendental technique and a magnificently commanding tone in all registers. He plays in tune and reaches the core of the musical materials he explores. For the most part, in addition, he's able to call to mind his four heroes without sounding derivative. He does that in the Hebrew Melody, the Hopak, and, perhaps most of all, in the Jota. At times, too, as in the Meditation and Banjo and Fiddle, he achieves almost complete independence, despite the strong impress his predecessors left on these pieces. Still, not all of the performances lay the ghosts of the past. In general, he's at his strongest in the best works and at his weakest (although this can hardly be a word for Oliveira) in the worst. Perhaps, like Rabin, Oliveira lacks some of the alchemistic power, which Kreisler and Heifetz possessed in full measure, to convert even the basest metal into gold.

Because of all its allusions, the program seems to require a special sort of consideration, and listening to it, at least for a member of my generation, elicits a complicated response. For sure, though, it stands head and shoulders above almost all other tributes to violinists of a recently bygone but deeply lamented era, a time when artists served, in Milstein's view, as priests of a musical religion rather than as trendy hucksters of a depersonalized, even dehumanized, "art." Finally, the very complexity of that response earns the recital a strong recommendation. As Bein and Fushi's Miracle Makers pays tribute to Stradivari, Guarneri, and Oliveira, so this recital pays tribute to five, not just four violinists. Bravissimo to them all!

American Record Guide:

"This is a very enjoyable, well-programmed recital with many popular encores and some delightful works unknown to me, like the 3 Pieces by Victor Herbert. Oliveira is technically up to the demands of everything he plays, and he always creates the right mood. If the music here appeals to you, you won't be disappointed. Good sound." Magil


Each piece here, writes Elmar Oliveira, is his personal tribute to its performance by Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Fritz Kreisler, or Michael Rabin, and experienced collectors will doubtless not only link the piece to the violinist (in the case of Rabin, it is the Massenet), but will even recall the album cover art. In some instances Oliveira goes his models one better: Heifetz recorded only A la valse from Victor Herbert's brief suite; Oliveira gives all three movements, and he likewise plays both movements of the Smetana, while Milstein recorded only the second. And Heifetz and Milstein dipped only into the Falla songs; Oliveira plays the entire Kochanski transcription.

... his playing is beautiful, fluent, and polished. I have endured some truly embarrassing Heifetz "tribute" CDs by unworthy nonentities. Oliveira is a distinguished artist in his own right who can honor names this great without seeming presumptuous." David K. Nelson


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