Sibelius and Heifetz: Perfect Pair

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It’s the 75th anniversary of a celebrated recording by Jascha Heifetz of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. That has WNYC’s Sara Fishko considering the power of the recording and the music ... in this edition of the Fishko Files.

In 1935 the Sibelius violin concerto was recorded for the first time by violinist Jascha Heifetz, with Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic. This premiere has become a famous and treasured recording, even after 75 years.

“Nobody had brought such absolutely note-perfect playing to the violin before. I mean, Heifetz, with his first few recordings, really raised the bar for all violinists. And the bar has never come down again,” said Tim Page, a Professor of Journalism and Music at the University of Southern California.

Heifetz had a style that was both very cool and very intense, which was not so different from that of Sibelius. The recording was a good match of musician and composer. “I often compare it to simply the character of a Finnish person or a Finnish musician,” said violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who will perform Sibelius’ piece with the New York Philharmonic this weekend. “Basically, during eight months in a year, it’s cold and dark, and they only have light for three months in the summer, but then they have light all day and all night -– so it’s a kind of destabilizing matter in nature.  And it’s a mixture of coolness, but at the same time something very, very intense inside...their soul is really burning,” she continued.  

In the last generation there has been a reevaluation of Sibelius and a greater understanding of how modern his music really is. In previous generations Sibelius had been thought of as a very conservative composer whose life in Finland isolated him from the world. He was dismissed as somewhat conventional. “We now find him an extremely strange composer. I mean, I don’t think there’s much that’s really that traditional in Sibelius,” Page said.  

The Sibelius violin concerto will be performed this weekend by soloist Lisa Batiashvili with the New York Philharmonic, under conductor Alan Gilbert. Visit the New York Philharmonic’s website for more information.

WQXR will broadcast the concert on June 24 at 9 p.m.




Sibelius Concerto Recordings

    Other Recordings


    Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister

    Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer