Paul Silverthorne

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The LSO and London Sinfonietta's principal violist selects his favourite recordings

Tertis and Primrose are like a Heldentenor compared with a mezzo-soprano

Chausson Poème
David Oistrakh, USSR State Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin
This 1948 recording, released in the mid-1990s, captures the essence of Oistrakh’s playing: the perfection, soulfulness and beauty of his sound. There’s honesty and emotion there, but no self-indulgence. He doesn’t display his own personality here, but uses it to bring out the composer’s own thoughts.

Mozart Complete String Quintets
William Primrose, Griller Quartet
I studied quartets with Sidney Griller, so this recording took on a new meaning for me. Griller said there was some tension between Primrose and himself, and one can sense the competitiveness between them – some movements are a little faster than the composer intended! It’s not a seamless product, as so many recordings are, but one can feel the players’ spirit.

Brahms (transc. Tertis) Minnelied op.71 no.5
Lionel Tertis (viola), unknown pianist
I only became aware of Tertis aged 19, when I switched from the violin to viola. He had a completely different voice from Primrose – like a Heldentenor compared with a mezzo-soprano – and it immediately blew me away. His playing of Romantic repertoire, such as this Brahms transcription, demonstrated his vocal quality, his ability to spin a line, and the sheer power of his playing. I ended up playing a large viola, as Tertis did.

Schubert ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata
Mstislav Rostropovich, Benjamin Britten
When I first heard this, I thought it was either the most incredible or the most self-indulgent performance I’d heard. Now I think I’ve settled on the former. Both of them play extremely freely but they respond to one another effortlessly. They hold the listener in exquisite suspense in Schubert’s little shifts of tonality before releasing the music to flow on as if nothing has happened. Many cellists play the sonata as though it’s a virtuoso piece, which spoils the lightness that is captured so well here.

Erroll Garner (piano)
I love listening to jazz for relaxation, and I particularly like Erroll Garner. His crazy, quirky, almost atonal introductions that dissolve into pure swing are captivating, as they combine wit with sheer virtuosity. Solitaire contains none of his most famous numbers but the playing throughout is extraordinary.

Originally published in The Strad, December 2013. Download the digital edition of the issue or subscribe to it as part of our 30-day free trial.

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