Nathan Milstein (EMI Classic Archive Series) (2003)

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Released 1-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Classical Bonus Track-Mischa Elman Plays Fritz Kreisler
Trailer-Classic Archive Collection - A Preview
DVD Credits
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 85:20 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Patricia Foy
Georges Croses
Ideale Audience
EMI Music
Starring Nathan Milstein
Mischa Elman
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Johann Sebastian Bach
Ludwig Van Beethoven

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

Nathan Milstein was born in the Russian city of Odessa in 1904. As a youth he was taught by the same violin teacher as David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan. He later became a pupil of Leopold Auer in St. Petersburg, the legendary teacher of violinists Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman and Efrem Zimbalist amongst others. He rose to prominence in Russia during the early years of the Soviets. Travel restrictions had yet to be strictly enforced and in 1924 he obtained a passport to tour overseas. Following the death of Lenin and the accession of Stalin, conditions in the Soviet Union deteriorated and Milstein never returned to his homeland, settling in the United States.

There he continued a concert career for more than sixty years, only ended by a broken arm in 1987. While he never achieved the fame and adulation of his compatriot Heifetz, he was highly regarded as a violinist, particularly in the solo violin works of Bach. He died in 1992 at the age of 87.

This disc contains performances recorded for television in Britain and France during the late 1950s and 1960s. Like others in this series (of which this is the 13th volume), the source material is not of the best quality, being recorded on kinescope or primitive video tape. The interest lies in seeing and hearing a performer of the past in action, not in the visual and sonic quality, so allowances do need to be made.

There are several performances here that are incomplete. I presume that this is due to the need to fit the material into a predetermined television timeslot, not that movements were deleted for this DVD release. So we miss out on the middle movement of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, and we only have the final movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto. Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 is also represented only by the first movement. The remaining pieces are short single-movement works, probably the sort of thing that would be included in a concert as encore pieces. Valuably we have two examples of Milstein's Bach, in the lengthy Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 and the shorter Preludio from the Partita No. 3 for solo violin.

Needless to say the performances, recorded between 1957 and 1968, are nearly flawless, and these films give a good impression of what he must have been like on the concert platform. The direction of these pieces is very good, concentrating on his technique in shots that are held for long periods, and also show some of the work of his accompanists.

The works are as follows:

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Track Listing

1. Mozart - Adagio in E K261
2. Mozart - Rondo in C K373
3. Paganini - Caprice no 11
4. Paganini - Caprice no 5
5. Falla - Suite populaire espagnole 6
6. Falla - Suite populaire espagnole 5
7. Novek - Perpetuum mobile
8. Mozart - Violin Concerto K219: I
9. Brahms - Violin Concerto: III
10. Beethoven - Sonata Op 47 I, III
11. Bach - Chaconne, Partita no 2
12. Paganini/Milstein - Paganiniana
13. Bach - Preludio, Partita no 3

Transfer Quality


All of the material is shown in the original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and there is no 16x9 enhancement.

As mentioned above, considerable allowance must be made for the quality of the source material, as while it is viewable, it is not very good. Most of the items are somewhat blurry, with little in the way of fine detail. The kinescope process with which most of these recordings were made literally involves pointing a film camera at a television monitor. This can result in distortion of the image, which is noticeable in the Bach works, where there is an unnatural bend in the violinist's bow. Happily most of these films do not have this distortion.

All works on this disc are in black and white. Contrast levels are just adequate, and there is not much in the way of shadow detail. Any dark areas tend to be just black. There are no pure whites.

There appear to be no artefacts introduced as a result of the transfer. However, the source material has numerous artefacts. There is a noticeable glitch like a video tracking error at 1:55 in track 2 (the Mozart Rondo). Microphony occurs several times, and there is often chroma noise in the background of shots. Fast motion tends to look very jerky. There is a thin film of grain over the image. Despite these problems, I did not find my enjoyment of the programme lessened to any great extent.

The disc is single-layered and there are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The sole audio track is Linear PCM 2.0 mono.

The audio is as good as you could expect from old television recordings. Bass tends to be overemphasised and a little boomy, and while strings can sound a bit wiry, in this case the violin comes across well. There is some audible background hiss, especially during the Falla piece. I have some recordings on CD of Milstein from the 1940s and early 1950s, and without exception these sound better than this DVD, but of course the interest in this material lies in seeing the performer as well as hearing him, and sonic considerations do not weigh as heavily as normal. There is nothing in the audio here that would deter anyone but those who demand reference quality sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Mischa Elman Plays Two Pieces by Fritz Kreisler (5:37)

Kreisler was the pre-eminent violinist of the first half of last century, and he also composed a lot of smaller pieces to play as encores at his concerts. Elman was a compatriot of Milstein, though a decade older, and here he expressively plays Kreisler's Preghiera in the style of Padre Martini and Schn Rosmarin in a BBC recording from 1962. Elman speaks briefly to introduce the second piece. The film is very grainy. A short bonus.

Classic Archive Collection - A Preview (9:37)

Nine short excerpts from other titles in the series, each running about 1 minute. There is also a text listing of earlier releases.

DVD Credits

Seven pages of credits detailing the origin of the recordings and DVD production credits.


A twenty page booklet with detailed track listings, and a two page essay by Nalen Anthoni which is repeated in several languages. There are also several photos of Milstein and one of Elman.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

This series is manufactured in the EU in both PAL and NTSC formats and distributed worldwide. This means that the Region 4 release is identical to the releases in other countries in content, and may differ only in television format. Therefore there is no reason not to buy locally, unless you can get a better price overseas.


An excellent introduction to this Russian violinist, though I would have liked some more substantial complete performances.

The video quality is not very good, but as good as it could be given the source material.

The same statement applies to the audio quality.

The extra is nice but very insubstantial.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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