Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS Midprice

Váša Příhoda (violin). The Complete Cetra Recordings 1956-57
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Concerto No. 3 K216
Violin Concerto No. 4 K218
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/Ennio Gerelli
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)

Chaconne transcribed Ottorino RESPIGHI
Orchestra d’Archi e Organo di Torino della RAI/Armando Gramegna
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043 realized Charles-René BOUVET
Franco Novello (violin)
Orchestra d’Archi e Organo di Torino della RAI/Ennio Gerelli
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)

Devil’s Trill Sonata realized Henri VIEUXTEMPS
Trio d’Archi
Giovanni Battista VIOTTI (1755-1824)

Sinfonia Concertante for two violins and strings in F major
Franco Novello (violin)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/Ennio Gerelli
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Introduction and Variations on "Nel cor più non mi sento" from Paisiello’s La Molinara elaborated by Příhoda
Sonatina for solo violin
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Slavonic Dance in A flat major Op.72 No.8
Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908)

Jota Navarra
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Rosenkavalier Waltzes elaborated by Příhoda
Váša PRÍHODA (1900-1960)

Slawische Melodie
Váša Příhoda (violin)
Itzko Orlovetsky (piano)
Recorded 1956-57
WARNER FONIT 50466-3248-2-5 [3 CDs: 160.12]


It was only a matter of a few weeks ago that I reviewed Příhoda’s magnificent 1943 Polydor recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto currently on Symposium (see that review for some biographical material). Now what should land on my astonished doormat but this long hoped for but seldom-expected collection of the violinist’s post War Italian recordings. These were made for Cetra between 1956 and 1957, a scant few years before his early death in 1960. The German company Podium Legend has for the last few years been issuing a large number of his off-air broadcast material – some fascinating things there – but apart from their initial and one ancillary release on a licensed LP label the late Cetras have never been re-released in any form, to the best of my knowledge. These commercial discs, including a significant amount of literature that the violinist had previously not recorded, not least the Mozart Concertos, had relatively limited circulation outside Italy where Příhoda was then living – and I for one send Warner Fonit congratulations on rescuing these sides from the vaults.

Příhoda’s Mozart is fascinating – brittle, nervous, highly-strung, on edge in Allegros and constantly inflected with finger position changes and bowing idiosyncrasies. Imagine the patrician figures of Szymon Goldberg and Arthur Grumiaux in this repertoire and they are everything the Czech player is not – should one wish to analyse Příhoda’s playing negatively in that way. His legato phrasing is constantly dipping and swooping as if on ever-quivering currents of air, his intonation flattens for optimum expressive potential, his slides in the G major are quick and rather slick, his characterful persona always audible, his own cadenzas personalised and occasionally questionable in terms of thematic incident. One listens to the rapt intensity of the opening of that Concerto’s slow movement with its dampened dynamics and withdrawn delicacy. One also admires the generosity of feeling while noting that his tone, never very opulent even in his prime, has rather coarsened, that the cadenza is massively misconceived and that in the end his Mozart playing lacks a sense of involving repose in slow movements. He is so tactile and quicksilver a player that real simplicity is just beyond him, the masculine and feminine elements in Mozart playing too decisively in his case weighted toward the masculine. Parts of the Rondo finale are splendidly executed with some contrastive material slyly slow and an interpolated mini cadenza. A later one illustrates his virtuoso mentality.

The support from the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI under Ennio Gerelli is really only adequate, a fact that is perhaps more marked in the companion D major Concerto. The winds’ tuning is not always spot-on and the strings, like the soloist, can incline to shrillness, a fact emphasised by the relatively unwarm recording acoustic. Some of his phrasing here can be a bit sticky and, rather remarkably, his bowing comes under pressure early on, leading to a momentary but mildly awful intonational slippage (from 2.28 to 2.34 after the trill). Either confidence in the generality of the music making, indifference or time considerations meant that it wasn’t patched. But whatever reservations there are to be made about this kind of playing and the nineteenth century grandiose cadenzas of his own devising (the one in this movement is especially sinuous, pleading and monstrous) at least this is playing of character and drama and not the anaemic whitewash that some current practitioners like to peddle. In the Andante – quite slow, speeds up, slows down – Příhoda utilises all the devices of a romanticised approach to vest colour and pathos into the solo line. He makes much of the timbral contrasts here, though it’s noticeable how the lower two strings never quite sound as do the upper two. He makes smooth portamenti – attractive playing but certainly not in the league of someone like Szigeti in this Concerto. In the finale he is guilty of some gulped articulation and some rather leading phrasing, with plenty of wilful bowing and direction. He takes full advantage of the tempo contrasts to lavish his superfine playing on it but there are moments when things are mildly chaotic and architecturally unsound. Still, as I said, fascinating to hear.

The second disc is given over to three staples and an unusual example of Viotti’s creativity. For the Vitali he uses the Respighi transcription, which means a string orchestra behind him. As with the finale of the Mozart D minor he responds eagerly to the contrastive potential of the fractured Chaconne in echt Romantic style – intensely coiled diminuendi, elastic legato, sumptuously quick portamenti and so on – for maximal emotive effect. This is a lushly romanticised effort, with some long bowing and the orchestral counter-themes brought out with magnificent explosivity at the end. The earlier Polydor recording with Seidler-Winkler used the standard Charlier edition and saw his accompanist on the organ rather than his accustomed piano. The Bach Double Concerto is the only such extant commercial example and he’s joined by his Italian pupil Franco Novello. In his autobiography William Primrose mentioned a concert in London he’d been to in which he saw the weird double bill of Příhoda and Casals, each playing one half of the concert. The Czech violinist had come on with his finger busters and after the interval Casals played solo Bach. As Primrose put it, thinking of Příhoda’s gymnastics – “So what?” Well, here is some Bach; poised, attractive, unexceptional, rather heavy in the slow movement and unyielding, ultimately unmoving. As with the Vitali, so with the Tartini – his earlier 78 recording with Otto Graef was his own arrangement of the Devil’s Trill but this one is Vieuxtemps’s, with a string trio to boot to accompany (they’re not named in the booklet but were Lughi, Francalanci and cellist Ferrari). This is recognisable Příhoda territory – pensive and slow start, delicate and withdrawn, a romantic not a classicist approach (vide the older Albert Spalding) with occasional intentional intonational buckles. The string trio doesn’t in truth add much, certainly not any sense of authenticity. They often double the line or accentuate the harmony - and yes, for Příhoda watchers he does speed outrageously, as ever, just where you feel he should hold the tempo steadier. The Viotti again features Novello and is a most worthwhile piece, rich in melodious import, full of registral contrasts for the two violin soloists, passages of unison bowing and catch-and-chase sequences and overlapping games. There are some minor moments of queasiness but overall the colouration is attractive and the slow movement nicely moulded. The finale has some incessant quasi-operatic incidents, chewy articulation from the soloists and a powerfully executed cadenza.

The final disc of three is given over to favourites. Here we can enjoy his lyrical drive and fearsome command of pizzicati in the Nel cor più variations, a work he could probably play in his sleep (he’d already recorded it twice over on 78s), and the solo Sonatina with its left hand pizzicatos, dizzying harmonics and prodigious feats of bowing. Similarly the Hubay – his only recording I believe – with its whistling harmonics, digital cleanliness, electric trill, sentiments and sliding. His Rosenkavalier Waltzes are here in all their saucy glory – he’d already recorded them for Polydor and was never bashful about playing them. He still played them marvellously, even toward the end of his life. His own pieces are attractive even though the Dvořák modelled Slawische Melodie does rather outstay its welcome whilst the master’s Slavonic Dance has style and lashings of rubato, digital mechanics and real lyrical feeling.

So there it is – there is a useful introduction in English and Italian by Angelo Scottini and some attractive photographs. I’ve not heard the original LPs so can only make a reasoned assumption that the remastering is as good as it sounds – no residual hiss or grit and no seeming treble suppression. Admirers of this exceptional violinist have good reason to snap up this set without any delay.

Jonathan Woolf


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.