Milstein Revisited

While the classical CD market is quickly becoming overstuffed with re-releases, EMI's latest digitally remastered hero, Nathan Milstein, certainly deserves a solo recording that is up to snuff in this surround-sound generation.

While Milstein is perhaps best known for his chamber work with fellow Russians Vladimir Horowitz and Gregor Piatigorsky, this album displays violin sonatas by Handel, Mozart and Prokofiev.

Milstein's take on Handel's Violin Sonata No. 4 in D Major (RealAudio excerpt) is clean and lively, even with the rather dry accompaniment of Artur Balsam. For Mozart's sonatas in C major, E minor and G major, recorded with pianist Leon Pommers, Milstein uses his notably precise intonation and touching phrasing to illuminate the color and emotion of the well-known compositions.

Finally, it is Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major (RealAudio excerpt) that steals the show. Milstein thrills with a full sound that is stoic and precise, attending to every detail, while allowing for a beautifully tender third movement. Balsam's playing is much better suited to the motion of Prokofiev, and the give and take between the violin and the piano is well matched.

The choice of works from composers of three different musical generations proves a wise way to preserve the rare clarity of Milstein's splendid playing.