Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Violin Concerto No. 1 Op. 20 (1859)
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso Op. 28 (1863)
Havanaise Op. 83 (1887)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Sonata No. 26 in B flat K378 – Rondo (1779-1781)
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745)

Chaconne arr. Charlier
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Op. 13 (1875-76)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)

Three Myths – No. 1 La Fontaine d’Aréthuse Op. 30 (1915)
Radio interview with Jacques Thibaud [5.34]
Jacques Thibaud (violin) with
Sinfonie Orchestre das Hessischen Rundfunks/Alceo Galliera recorded a studio broadcast in Frankfurt, 29 April 1953 (Saint-Saëns’ Concerto and Introduction and Rondo Capriccio)
Marinus Flipse (piano) in Havanaise and the Mozart Rondo, recorded in concert at the Musikhochschüle, Frankfurt on 30 April 1953
Tasso Janopoulo (piano) in the Vitali and Szymanowski (from commercial HMVs of 1936 and 1933 respectively)
Alfred Cortot (piano) in the Fauré Sonata (from a commercial HMV set of 1927)
MALIBRAN CDRG 179 [77.31]


There is precious little live Thibaud so it’s a matter for rejoicing when some turns up. We have the three Enescu-conducted Mozart Concertos from 1951 – live Paris broadcasts – and in recent years the Ansermet Lalo Symphonie Espagnole from 1941 has surfaced (and is available on APR). This Malibran issue has uncovered the fruit of a two-day concert schedule given by the seventy-three year old in Frankfurt. From his orchestral concert we have the First Concerto of Saint-Saëns and the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and from the following day’s recital with pianist Marinus Flipse we have a Mozart Sonata rondo (only) and the Havanaise. The rest of the material here – bar the delightful radio interview – derives from commercial recordings ranging from 1927 to 1936.

We are especially fortunate to have the Saint-Saëns Concerto because, though closely associated with his music, Thibaud left no commercial recordings of any of the Concertos. Recorded a trifle boxily but in excellent fidelity the tapes from the orchestra’s archive have survived in splendid shape. It would be idle to pretend that this is the Thibaud of old. Recorded a few scant months before his death in an air crash he is very much in decline and those seeking the sensuous tone and the exotically spiced portamenti of the young Thibaud will search in vain because, like many another violinist (and especially those who famously are less than scrupulous about practising) his glory days were over two decades back. The tone is a shadow of its former self, intonation wanders and whilst the portamenti are still quite athletic and evocative his luxurious, once-in-a-lifetime vibrato has slackened alarmingly. His trills are reasonable but not of electric speed and not quite climactic enough. What remains is a sovereign sense of phrasing, his sensitivity in the slow central panel of the short thirteen-minute work, and the romantic nuance he can still manage to impart despite the lack of tonal projection. In the final section his bowing is still reasonably well sustained with more quick slides and some rather starved notes. In conception he is affectionate and triumphant but one has to take the execution and think back to the gorgeous liquidity of the 1910s and 1920s to imagine quite what he could do with this repertoire. In that sense this is not unlike the later Elman Vanguards – the vestiges of a great player who, albeit quite imperfectly, has something still to teach.

In the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso his lower strings are very much less responsive, the trills slower but there are still plenty of suave finger position changes and a surety of conception. Turning back to his commercial recordings of the piece – with Armour for Pathé and, in the orchestral version, with the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris under Ruhlmann again for Pathé in 1914 – and we find that his vibrancy and tonal allure have long since dissipated by the early 50s. Similarly the Havanaise, which here is slightly quicker than his 1933 traversal with Janopoulo and the c.1914 disc with Armour. The Mozart Rondo derives from the Sonata in B flat which he recorded complete with Marguerite Long for HMV in 1943, one of his less well-known wartime recordings. The acoustic here is rather dead and the performance though attractive is inferior to the Long – but it’s a precious souvenir of Thibaud in one of the things he did better than almost any other musician of his generation – play Mozart.

The remainder will be well loved by all who revere Thibaud. The Vitali is full of luscious romanticism, sumptuous portamenti, and ravishing tone – even if he does excise the more difficult thirds and octaves passage towards the end. The Fauré Sonata is high on lyrical effulgence and drive, saturated in the ethos that other more obviously high octane performance ignore at their peril. Cortot’s animation of the left hand in the Allegro opening is still marvelous as is the exquisite rise and fall of the line in the Andante. The elfin litheness and pert athleticism of both men in the Scherzo is joyful and there’s panache a-plenty in the finale. He is surely as convincing in Szymanowski as Kochanski must have been (speculation of course, no evidence of Kochanski’s Szymanowski has survived). His La Fontaine d’Aréthuse is full of luscious liquidity and exoticism, Thibaud’s explicit sensuality finding a just and succulent text in the first of the Myths. In the interview he speaks wittily about his early experiences, about seeing Paul Verlaine, Chausson and Saint-Saëns and about his famous fiddle.

The notes are extensive and affectionate and the photographs in the most attractive booklet are delightful and of marvellous quality. For a Thibaud devotee it is a particular pleasure to see him in portrait, pensive and humorous, or photographed having his left hand set in a plaster cast by a sculptor – he observes the process with quizzical curiosity. Even his most vociferous admirers could hardly claim that the recently unearthed 1953 material finds Thibaud in other than decline, as I said, but it makes for a curiously affecting symmetry to play these survivors alongside the glorious tonalist of the teens and twenties. For all the deficiencies and limitations I wouldn’t want to be without this disc.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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