"Oscar Shumsky has a gorgeous tone and is a supreme stylist in this repertoire." The Penguin Guide
"I’ve been an addict of Shumsky’s for many years and count his London appearances as one of the higher points in my concert-going. One hears things about his more abrasive side but that’s not a consideration when faced with appreciation of his recordings. It was certainly fortunate that some companies at least clamoured to record him.
Nimbus has here collated the Kreisler recordings Shumsky made with Milton Kaye and William Wolfram and shaped them into four well-filled CDs. Long kinship with them has probably rendered me less articulate than usual regarding the many delights enshrined here; the virile yet sensitively artful vibrato, the purposeful yet stylistically apt use of rubato, the occasional period portamento, the whole ethos as evoked by Shumsky being one of ineffable rightness.
Just a few signpost pointers from me as to the glories on offer, then. The first disc divides in to neat paragraphs; Viennese, works ‘in the style of,’ and Dvořák-Kreisler. I needn’t vouch for the Praeludium and Allegro, masterful and masculine, clean of execution, invincible in rhythm; I should note one of my own special favourites – the ‘Pugnani’ Tempo di Menuetto - which is a model of how such things should be played. True, the acoustic accorded the Dvořák-Kreisler items is a great deal more billowing than elsewhere and slightly blunts things but that’s a small matter really when one can appreciate the legato in the Slavonic Dance No.1 in G Minor and the affectingly traversed Indian Lament.
The second disc delves into Originals, and Tartini and Corelli. How skittishly Shumsky scampers through the very fast central variations of the Variations on a Theme by Corelli. To be fair La Folia is more Kreisler than Corelli but the refreshing playing is the focus and splendid it is. Tartini’s Concerto in the Style of Vivaldi is bracing, dramatic and strongly argued with an especially appealingly sung slow movement. The Devil's Trill Sonata is quite measured. One of Kreisler’s bigger challenges and most impressive originals is the Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice which is winningly done.
The third disc offers a range of pleasures from an original, to Tchaikovsky, Traditional, Grainger and more ‘in the style of’. He plays Tambourin Chinois with full awareness of a battery of expressive nuances, not simply portamenti but vibrato usage and speed, rubati and a phalanx of left and right hand devices that vest the music with idiomatic charm. One thing is true with Shumsky, as one would expect of a player who heard his idol Kreisler at first hand; these devices come from within and always sound natural. His Londonderry Air is slower than Kreisler and that generation of fiddle players habitually took it. Chanson Louis XIII et Pavane is elegant but not suave and in this selection of ‘in the style of’ pieces there is not one extraneous gesture, not one hint of gaucherie.
The final disc divides into Classical, Romantic and Spanish. There’s a delectable trio of Schubert pieces from the first category and Kreisler’s only arrangement of a Brahms Hungarian Dance from the Romantics. It’s No.17 in E sharp minor. Schumann’s Romance sounds glorious in this performance and the Albéniz pieces do full justice to their transcriber.
Memorable performances then which offer a locus classicus as to how to approach this repertory. Fortunately Shumsky had two able though very different colleagues at the keyboard and together they set a high standard. One notes the different acoustics but overwhelmingly one acknowledges the wonderful and imaginatively phrased playing, as captivating today as when it was first recorded."
Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international.com