Throughout this set the synergy between Deccas famed Full Frequency
Range Recording and Campolis lush/plush sweet tone reaps real
riches. Campoli must have been more than satisfied with the results.
The release of these three discs (originally released separately in
1994/1995) as a set is timely and coincides with the publication
later this year (1999) of the Ashgate/Scolar biography of this artist
- the peoples violinist if ever there was one. He is still held
in warmest affection by those who experienced his violinistic voice
in the concert hall. He was a success in both classical concert hall and
the salon orchestral field. Perhaps many could not forgive him for that and
a faintly sniffy tone occasionally rises toxically from the page of some
reviews of his recordings.
The tapes were made in Londons Kingsway Hall between 1952 and 1958
and straddle the mono-stereo transition. The Tchaikovsky, Bruch and Mendelssohn
are captured in stereo; the remainder in mono.
The Mendelssohn is a gem of performance with many delights. Just listen to
the trembling, sweetly produced appassionato music of the first movement.
This is surely the pinnacle of Campolis commercially recorded achievement.
In the Elgar I found Campoli apparently precise in technique without ever
being desiccated. His tone is peachily ripe - obviously a hallmark trait.
While Boult often is seen as somewhat buttoned and stiff-collared here, in
the Elgar, he seems caught up in Campolis passionate ebb and flow.
A lovely performance to set beside the Heifetz/Sargent (still my favourite),
Haendel/Boult and the Sammons.
BLISS Violin Concerto BLISS Theme and Cadenza. TCHAIKOVSKY Violin
Bliss wrote his concerto (1955) for Campoli and his mono recording was for
long a staple of the Ace of Clubs LP catalogue (did it ever make it
to Eclipse LP I wonder [No! Rendering the work
completely unavailable - Len]). Bliss enjoyed working with
artists in evolving his concertos (NB Solomon in the piano concerto). It
is a big rangy piece and has some memorable writing. While I remain fond
of the piece it has never caught fire for me and I am afraid that for all
of Campolis patent ardour I remain to hear the watershed performance.
I have never heard the BBC Radio Classics CD in which Campoli is partnered
by Bliss himself. The short Bliss Theme and Cadenza (1946) is attractive
and was the mate for a BBC radio drama. I wonder how much of the original
In the Tchaikovsky, Campoli prefers August Wilhelmj's edition which heard
now produces (for me) a few slight surprises. Things do not go in quite the
way you expect particularly in the first movement. Purists may find this
objectionable. I do not see a problem. Compensating for this (if you feel
that compensation is necessary) is the Hispanic temperament of Argenta adding
a tartness and taut energy that I find very welcome. Campoli is in touch
with the Mediterranean voice of the work. One can imagine how much Campoli
enjoyed the Capriccio Italien.
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto BRUCH Scottish Fantasy
The Bruch Fantasy must still give place to the Heifetz recording but again
Campolis caramelised tone delivers a refreshing perspective on this
weary war-horse. Campolis approach in the Beethoven (and elsewhere)
steers the hazardous course between sentiment and sentimentality. Very rarely
does he fall onto the wrong side.
If you insist on highlights let me commend to you that Mendelssohn recording
and urge you at the same time to hear (with indulgent ears) the Tchaikovsky.
It reflects real credit on Beulah that they have done such a fine job on
the technical (and therefore also the artistic) side. Notes are fine - profiling
artist and music.
The new card slipcase is designed to remind us of that incident where, at
a Campoli concert, the London pea-souper seeped into the hall and the audience
were able to make out the head, shoulders and violin of Campoli above the
The paintings on the covers of the individual discs are from the London Transport
Museum. Epping Forest by Walter Spradbury is a gloriously literal
interpretation of the English countryside.
Beulahs small catalogue is too easily overlooked. The mono Sibelius
Collins discs are also reviewed this month.
This is a cherishable set (available now at just over 25 GB Pounds) and is
commended to those seeking individuality in a world of hyped anonymity.