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Clara Haskil and Arthur Grumiaux
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No 23 in A Major K488 (1786)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Sonata No 7 in C Minor Op 30/2 (1801-02)
Clara Haskil, piano
Arthur Grumiaux, violin
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Otmar Nussio
Recorded June 1953 (Mozart) and September 1959 (Beethoven)
AURA 188-2 [48.51]


I often think of the Szymon Goldberg-Lili Kraus duo when I think of Grumiaux and Haskil and not merely because of the alignment of the sexes. Both were superbly equipped instrumentally and temperamentally and both were elite duos when it came to the core, classical and early romantic repertoire. They observed and obeyed the functions and proprieties of the music they played vesting it with warmth and discernment; stylistically apposite without sacrificing their romantic sensibilities; tonally expressive without exaggeration; a kinship that survived the vagaries of touring and disparities of ambition and location. In the case of the Grumiaux-Haskil duo this also involved disparities in age – he was 29 and she well into her fifties when they began their music making together – but also the duo witnessed a remarkable consonance of aesthetic understanding that led to over a decade of stellar musicianship.

Their commercial discography – Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert principally – has of late been expanded, or replicated by broadcast and live performances, of which Aura have now given us two, the other devoted to Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas. Grumiaux recorded the Op 30 No 2 twice commercially for Philips – with Haskil and with Arrau. Here in Ascona in 1959 he retains vestiges of the more effulgent player who so startled on his early 1950s Boston recordings. This fiery expressivity has been softened somewhat but the opening movement is still galvanized and energetic, the Andante cantabile has a splendid series of collective dynamics and the Scherzo has real brio. The violinist has a few incidental and passing problems – especially on the G string – but it won’t perturb his many admirers.

Haskil plays the A Major Mozart Concerto with Otmar Nussio conducting the orchestra of which he had been in charge since 1938 (he had been taught by Respighi, was also a flautist - in which capacity he recorded - but his commercial discography is witheringly small and he’s probably better known for surviving off-air recordings such as this one). Touches of heaviness do occasionally intrude in the first movement of the concerto but are generally dispelled whilst in the Adagio Haskil’s strongly accented playing vests the movement with a rather theatrical verticality rather than the limpidity with which it is usually played. The finale goes quite well – not ideally clear perhaps but relatively buoyant.

Piero Rattalino’s notes are eccentric and scatter-shot but at least you won’t nod off reading them. The recital admirably meets Aura’s ambitious programme in releasing live material the better to enrich and reflect upon the discographies of such great artists as Grumiaux and Haskil.

Jonathan Woolf


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