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Arthur Grumiaux - Historic Philips Recordings 1953-1962

PHILIPS ORIGINAL MASTERS LIMITED EDITION 473 104-2 [5 CDs 64.09 + 70.19 + 76.48 + 71.04 + 76.20]

 

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major K207
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major K211
Arthur Grumiaux (violin) Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Bernhard Paumgartner, recorded 1954-55
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major K216
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major K218
Arthur Grumiaux (violin) Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Moralt, recorded 1953
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major K219
Violin Concerto in D major K271i
Arthur Grumiaux (violin) Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Bernhard Paumgartner, recorded 1954
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Violin Sonata in G minor
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Violin Sonata in G major
Pièce en forme de Habanera arr. Catherine
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major Op. 13
Les Berceaux Op.23 No. 1
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Zigeunerweisen Op. 20
Joseph-Hector FIOCCO (1703-1741)

Allegro from Pièces de Clavecin Op. 1 arr. H. Bent and N. O’Neill
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Andaluza (Danzas Españolas Op. 37 No. 5) arr. Kreisler
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Tango Op. 165 No.2 arr. Kreisler
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
István Hajdu (piano)
Recorded 1962
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)

Symphonie Espagnole in D minor Op. 21
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)

Poème Op.25
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Tzigane
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso Op.28
Havanaise Op.38
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)/Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux/Jean Fournet, recorded 1954 and 1956
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Violin Concerto in E minor Op.64
Arthur Grumiaux (violin) Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Moralt, recorded 1954
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Violin Concerto No.4 in D minor
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)/Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux/Franco Gallini, recorded 1954
I Palpiti Op.13 arr. Kreisler
Le Streghe Op.8 arr. Kreisler
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
Riccardo Castagnone (piano)
Recorded 1958

If you read the head note don’t skip over the Mozart assuming it’s the Colin Davis/LSO cycle. This is actually Grumiaux’s much less well-known earlier cycle, made in Vienna with Paumgartner and Moralt conducting, variously, the Vienna Symphony. The set was made in 1954-55 and stands up well. It’s true that the tapes have not emerged unscathed and one will hear moments of extraneous noise on them, but only at a relatively high level, so that one can still enjoy the august music making of the soloist. And Grumiaux really was a superb Mozartian. True, some may prefer Szeryng, from amongst the Belgian’s contemporaries, for a degree of incisiveness that some feel Grumiaux lacked but, to me, the grace and finesse that Grumiaux evinces is simply non-pareil in this repertoire. He was just slightly more exuberant here than in the later Davis cycle (something one has also noted in his Boston recordings of 1951-52 on Parnassus and highly recommended, especially to those who haven’t encountered Grumiaux in the fifties or earlier. He did make 78s). But what one finds in him is a superb equipoise between tonal discretion and stylistic understanding. There are no overstressed accents in the A major, phrasing is supple and entirely natural sounding (has any other Concerto cycle soloist sounded so unforced and invariably right?). He employs unfamiliar cadenzas as he invariably did and not the standard Sam Franko ones – his own, which are engaging and apt, as well as by Ysaÿe. I shall remember his veiled introduction to the cadenza of the G major’s Adagio with the greatest admiration. The accompaniments are attentive and the two conductors clearly in sympathy with Grumiaux.

Elsewhere this 5 CD box trawls Grumiaux’s discographic legacy with fine judgement. The third disc brings together his famed Debussy Sonata (a living rebuke to those who would maul it about in the interests of personal projection), his exquisitely intelligent Ravel Sonata and the Fauré No 1. The Debussy is his last 1962 recording of it and we’re fortunate that all three, first with Ulanowsky in Boston (Parnassus) and then in 1955 with Castagnone (part of a Philips triple box issued back in 1993) have all made appearances on CD. This Ravel is, perhaps surprisingly, his only commercial recording of the Sonata. I’ve always been greatly taken by his remake with Paul Crossley of the Fauré No 1 (coupled on a long cherished LP with the Second Sonata) but there’s no doubt that he and István Hajdu make a formidable pairing in this repertoire. The encore selection that completes the third disc derives from a slimline Philips twofer issued in 1995. Someone is of a like mind to me in the selection committee at Philips because they’ve narrowed things to the glorious Fiocco Allegro, Ravel’s Habanera, the irresistible Les Berceaux transcription and examples of his Iberian wizardry.

Grumiaux made a fine team with the underrated Jean Fournet (hero of the wartime French Berlioz discography – see Malibran) in an all-French Disc Four. That said this Symphonie Espagnole is shorn of the Intermezzo, something that Russian players routinely did, but I wasn’t aware that Grumiaux and Fournet had done as well. He certainly reinstated it when he made his more celebrated disc of it with Manuel Rosenthal with the same orchestra, the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux. The Chausson is informed by chaste intensity. This is no over-emoted performance and the Saint-Saëns pieces have drama and drive in equal measure, though it’s true that others have mined perhaps greater personality from them. Disc Five takes us back to Vienna for a Moralt-led Mendelssohn Concerto. Two years later, in 1956, the veteran Mischa Elman also recorded the same work in the same city, this time with the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. Profoundly different though their whole personalities were, they share a degree of selfless introspection in this much knocked-about work. Grumiaux had already recorded it in 1946 with Galliera and the Philharmonia and was to do so again with Haitink in 1960 and with Krenz in 1972. He is unhurried and spiccato-heavy in the opening movement with Moralt, sensitively shaped and introspective (at a Kreisler-like tempo). His approach is one of almost elfin delicacy, with a reposeful slow movement and a musical finale, the antithesis of showy bow flourishers (of whom the violin world has had its share). Mind you, he lacks for nothing in the Paganini. This might not be thought to be natural ground for an aristocrat like Grumiaux but we do him a disservice if we think him less than cast-iron technically. He surmounts difficult with nonchalance and his legato delicacy in the slow movement of the Concerto is wonderful. His fervour here is always informed by taste, discretion and purity of tonal production, and his digital vitesse in the finale is all-conquering.

I have little but praise for this varied and less well-known collection. It will be a boon to Grumiaux’s admirers and opens up compelling perspectives on his subtle but flexible music making. Margaret Campbell’s notes offer a good potted biography. For initiates I would suggest you get hold of the only biography of the violinist, by Laurence and Michel Winthrop (Editions Payot, Lausanne - in French only but if I can cope you can). And if you don’t want to read about him you will certainly want to hear him in this elegantly designed and life-enhancing box.

Jonathan Woolf



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