Reviews | RH-011 | Ivry Gitlis - the early years

January/February 2020 | Ned Kellenberger | American Record Guide | Ivry Gitlis -  early years  «These discs include concert, studio, and radio performances. For anyone looking for an introduction to the famous violinist, they display the strengths and weaknesses that would attach to Gitlis for his entire career. At his best, he fascinates and amazes us with his eclectic and non-traditional interpretations. The narrowness and speed that he attains with his vibrato allow for remarkable intensity in the sound and serve as an homage to Ginette Neveu, who tragically died as Gitlis’s career was emerging. Christian Ferras also had such a vibrato and sound at his disposal, but it was wielded in less iconoclastic contexts. At his worst, Gitlis ignores basic imperatives about sound, playing with tightness here, scrapes there. He slaps the string percussively and tastelessly when there is no musical imperative. His spontaneity causes great unevenness: the piece sounds exactly as it should, and then it sounds exactly as it should not; it strikes gold, and then it strikes quicksand. Almost every performance is a rollercoaster, and this grows more and more tiresome and irksome the more one listens. The bad habits are especially noticeable in the German repertoire. Stay away from his Brahms and Bach. They activate tepid interest, but inconsistencies in sound ruin them. The sound is not round or rich, and it never oozes out the instrument, appearing by commandment and not by request. He almost always plays on the surface of the string and not with consistent weight, descending into a pile of cheap tricks that do not substitute for serious music-making. Both Brahms and Bach would appreciate his freedom of pacing but not the contempt that he sometimes shows toward tradition. Gitlis is interesting, but he is derailed by his deliberate ignorance of sound. The Chausson Poeme is a fabulous performance. It sounds sometimes as if Gitlis physically moves away from the microphone when the sound grows distant at certain climaxes, but one gets the impression that this setting of poetry is perfect for him. It does not demand the continuity, patience, or discipline of traditional forms employed by Beethoven and Brahms. I prefer Josef Hassid’s recording of the Achron for its emotional depth and closeness, but Gitlis’s rendition is effective as a dream even if it has a slight scent of superficiality. The Bartok appears twice, and the concert performance from 1963 on the second disc is better than the first one. I [1st mvmt] of Tartini shows Gitlis at his most charming and inventive. When he takes care of his sound, he is one of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century.»
17 June 2019 | Stephen Greenbank | MusicWeb International | Ivry Gitlis - the early years, birth of a legend «Here we have a selection of broadcast performances made in Lausanne, Paris, Milan and Spoleto between 1949 and 1963. The earliest derive from acetates, with the later Italian inscriptions sourced from original masters. Gitlis is partnered by several pianists, all of whom are sympathetic. Audience presence has been conveyed by the retention of applause, adding positively to the spontaneity and emotion of the live event. There’s the occasional announcement, too. All are making their debut on CD and constitute a valuable addition to the violinist's discography. [...] Gitlis’ technical arsenal is impressive, harmonics, double stops....you name it, it's all there. Sit back and enjoy Moszkowski's Guitarre (arr. by Sarasate), the Wieniawski's Capriccio-Valse, with some seductive glissandi, and a gripping Polonaise No.1. There are two performances of Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin, an airing from Paris in December 1951 with an abridged Presto finale, which sounds boxy and a later live recording from Spoleto in July 1963 in much better sound. On both occasions, Gitlis rises to the challenge of this complex work admirably, keeping a tight rein throughout. His playing generates white-heat intensity. This is thrilling edge-of-the-seat stuff. [...] Emilio Pessina has done a sterling job with the audio restoration and remastering, and his potted biography of the artist is warmly welcomed. Included in the booklet is an array of black and white photographs.» 
9 May 2019 | Jonathan Woolf | MusicWeb International | Ivry Gitlis - the early years, birth of a legend  «The first broadcast comes from Lausanne in September 1949. He plays Hindemith’s Sonata No.3, Szymanowski’s La Fontaine D'Aréthuse and Bloch’s Nigun in typically febrile fashion, his tight, fast, vibrato vesting everything with a real sense of intensity and urgency. That Hindemith second movement therefore is quicksilver and full of youthful life – Gitlis was, after all, only 27 at the time – and the Szymanowski is fervid. [...] There are items from two 1953 recitals. Chausson’s Poème is a valuable addition in this communicative piano-accompanied reading with Odette Pigault and there’s a warm-blooded Achron Hebrew Melody very different from Josef Hassid’s famously passionate 78. [...] Gitlis is still happily with us at the time of writing, one of the last remaining real examples of individualism of both person and performing style.» 
March 2019 | Rob Cowan | GRAMOPHONE (pg. 98-99) | Rhine gold: an archive treasure trove   «Rob Cowan welcomes a historic label that has unearted some remarkable treasures. -- [...] Heifetz's stylistic consistency contrasts with the marked vicissitudes of 'attitude' in the playing of that charismatic maverick Ivry Gitlis, the subject of another treasurable double-CD set where two versions of the Bartók Solo Sonata (from 1951 and 1963 respectively) are about as unalike you could imagine (try the two readings of the 'Melodia'). Chausson's Poème is memorably passionate though there's some tape rumble and Gitlis shifts in and out of focus. But the sheer variety of playing on offer, whether in miniatures or larger pieces (such as Bach's Chaconne and Brahms's Third Sonata) conveys a rare level of dedication, with never a dull note to compromise one's pleasure. [...] »