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Aldo Ferraresi (violin). La storia discographica del violino Vol 5.
La scuola italiani Vol 1
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Violin Concerto No 1 (? 1817)
Le Streghe (1813)
Nel cor più non mi sento, for solo violin (? 1820)
Aldo Ferraresi (violin)
Augusto Ferraresi (piano)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Franco Gallini
Recorded in Rome studios in 1965
IDIS 6366 [51.25]


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Born in 1902 Aldo Ferraresi was heard by the visiting Czech violinists Vaša Prihoda and Jan Kubelik who strongly suggested he go to Brussels to study with Eugène Ysaye, a course of action he duly followed. Whilst he didn’t record prolifically, there are some 78s to his name and a few LPs. These are mainly of genre pieces for Italian HMV – QDLP6048 and QCLP12025 are the ones to look out for - and others for Odeon and Storia della Musica. To the vexing question as to what happened to the Italian violin school between Arrigo Serato (b. 1877) and Salvatore Accardo (b. 1941) Ferraresi adds a new dimension. Certainly Gioconda de Vito (b. 1907 and thus Ferraresi’s junior) made her significant mark, not least in recordings. And Pina Carmirelli (b. 1914), leader of the Boccherini Quartet, was another prominent figure in Italian musical life but it’s true to say that post-Serato, indeed from significantly before, the Italian school slumbered for a while.

And yet, like many another talented musician, Ferraresi’s career was somewhat circumscribed – principally as leader in the Orchestra of San Remo and the San Carlo theatre, or as first violin in the San Carlo Quartet. His numerous concerto engagements elevated him to the status, I suppose, of leader-cum-soloist, though the list of conductors with whom he worked was prodigious enough – Barbirolli, Knappertsbusch, Munch, Cluytens, Celibidache and Rodzinski amongst them. His brother, Cesare, some of whose trio recordings on the Aura label I have recently reviewed, was another splendid violinist, though not quite on a par with his older brother, and was a chamber player and teacher of distinction. The brothers also excelled at the art of Tango playing and Aldo once poached a small fortune in his early days with idiomatic performances. Again like many players he plied his trade from the bottom up – the list of violinists who played in café or so-called Gypsy bands is a long and distinguished one.

Here he performs his beloved Paganini. Splendid playing in many ways but not quite enough to lift him to the exalted level. The recordings, made for Italian radio in 1965 are quite raw and they have a rather cavernous acoustic, which does little but to diffuse the focus of sound. The strings also emerge rather glassily from all this but persist and we can admire Ferraresi’s often febrile playing. Yes, he can be fallible at the top of his register – but he was an unusually humble musician, the notes telling us he once insisted a recording of his be released only on condition that his wrong notes were left intact. As he’s so forwardly recorded we have plenty of opportunity to survey his musicianship – and this was the man, after all, who was approached to succeed Efrem Zimbalist as head of violin at Curtis (a position he declined). He has a strong technique, a vibrato under control, a degree of lyric intensity especially in his lower two strings, with an astute ear for emotive finger position changes if at times guilty, in the first movement especially, of some rather self-serving theatricality. Something happens to the balance in the cadenza – he leapt out of my speakers like a tiger – so maybe the recording level was notched up a little by studio engineers; no need really as he plays quite well enough as it is. He continues the good work in the second movement, including some gulped notes and more intensifying moments, though his emotive playing isn’t really quite consistent enough to carry the weight of the espressivo with optimum depth. His bowing is frequently magnificent in a finale notable for some not quite immaculate left hand and a spirited and humorous conclusion.

In Le Streghe his son, Augusto, accompanies him. There is much spirited and committed playing here once again though the dry recording does tend to emphasise some roughness and some passing but ungrateful tone. The left hand pizzicati are fine as are the harmonics though maybe some of his phrasing is a little wooden. I preferred the Nel cor piu variations even with what sounds like some deterioration on the tapes. Again there is some rhetorical phrasing but Ferraresi transcends this with a degree of success.

There are plenty more Ferraresi tapes awaiting publication; some have been heard at an audiovisual Exhibition celebrating his life held in Ferrara, city of his birth, in May 2002. So may I urge IDIS under the guise of its Instituto Discografico Italiano series seriously to consider giving wider release to those performances of Concertos by Shostakovich No. 1 (Rossi, 1959), the Elgar (Argento, 1966), Walton (Freccia, 1964) and others, not forgetting a CD release to the concerto dedicated to Ferraresi by Guarino, once available on a Sanremo LP.

Jonathan Woolf

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