Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonatas
No. 1 in D major Op. 12/1 (1797-98)
No. 2 in A major Op. 12/2 (1797-98)
No. 3 in E flat major Op. 12/3 (1797-98)
No. 4 in A minor Op. 23 (1800)
No. 5 in F major Op. 24 Spring (1801)
No. 6 in A major Op. 30/1 (1801-02)
No. 7 in C minor Op. 30/2 (1801-02)
No. 8 in G major Op. 30/3 (1801-02)
No. 9 in A major Op. 47 Kreutzer (1803)
No. 10 in G major Op. 96 (1812)
Fritz Kreisler (violin)
Franz Rupp (piano)
Recorded 1935-36
NAXOS 8.110969-71
[3 CDs: 207.35]


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One of the first of the HMV Society Editions - the famous subscription albums - this was also the first complete set of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas ever to be recorded. The catalogues had previously been sparse - isolated Sonatas, mainly the Op 30/3, the Spring and the Kreutzer by disparate musicians. For these sessions, overseen by Fred Gaisberg, Franz Rupp was chosen as accompanist, a suggestion made by Kreisler. The violinist may or may not have know that Rupp had accompanied the ageing but still potent Willy Burmester during one of the egotistical German violinist's many World tours. In any case Rupp's most distinguished accompanying days were ahead of him - here he was still only intermittently effective. The original sessions were begun - but aborted - in Berlin and only successfully completed in London and these lyrical, affectionate performances are still notably impressive, in the main for Kreisler's highly individual approach, his personalised vibrato usage, lyrical ease, and battery of inflective and ear-warming tonal qualities.

In the E flat major, for example, Kreisler inflects the opening Allegro con spirito with wonderful colouration, intensifying his vibrato in the second subject - in depth and width - with sovereign ardour (albeit one that may seem somewhat sentimentalised to those unsympathetic to this idiom). The following Adagio is beautifully phrased - in the main the slow movements are utterly convincing - and heightened with affectionate delicacy, his portamenti chaste, using a long bow (one never gets the sense of him changing bow, such was his command) and unfolding a glorious, lyric cantilena. He constantly changes colour, speed of vibrato and weight of muscular "pull" - in fact a master class in colouration and expressive nuance. To the articulacy and fluency of the concluding Rondo finale comes genuine rhythmic élan. If one listens to the Spring Sonata one hears Kreisler's inimitable charm in the opening Allegro - where Rupp is also on good form - and the intense sense of emotive compression Kreisler could generate in the slow movement. Here, once again, his trills are highly personalised and the colour and shaping of the line is indubitably his alone. In the rondo finale Rupp is really rather too supine; Kreisler meanwhile catches the stoical quality of the music with unexpected intensity. He is equally attuned to the incipient stoutness of it and he characterises with his intensely vibrant tone, though one or two minor slips intrude. Once more lyricism and elegance vie for honours in this splendid performance.

The Kreutzer doesn't quite scale these heights. The tempo for the opening violin statement is reasonable but Rupp's response is distinctly slower. I admired anew the tonal increments in which Kreisler indulges, though he's not helped here by Rupp's occasional rhythmic waywardness, and in the circumstances there is some disruptive rhythm in the middle of the movement that does some damage to the performance. The variations second movement is notable for some more of the violinist's battery of devices; in this case he employs pervasive portamenti with audible intermediate notes and this gives a whole increased sense of nuance and colour to the sound. All in all though, despite many glorious moments this is not a Kreutzer that ranks with the greatest. The final sonata, the G major Op 96, receives a patrician reading full of Kreisler's greatest qualities as a communicative musician. He contours and colours the Allegro moderato with wonderful grace. In the slow movement the introduction by Rupp is very plain but Kreisler reserves greatest intensity of vibrato usage for the most optimum expressive moment. He ends the movement with the quickest and most dextrous of slides. Kreisler controls the burgeoning drama of the Poco Allegretto finale with perfectly judged lyricism - his diminuendi are subtle and controlled, his tone ardently alive.

There is much, much more here to satisfy the Kreisler devotee. Maybe he was slightly past his best years but this integral and first set of the Sonatas is still a cornerstone of the discography. Not everything comes off (parts of the A major, Op 30 No 1 for example) and the partnership between Kreisler and Rupp is uneven and unequal, but at super bargain price these transfers do the performances justice in the most generous way imaginable.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Tony haywood

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