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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord (pub. 1715)
Nos. 1 in G, 2 in D, 3 in B, 4 in A, 5 in G, 6 in A
Ludwig SPOHR

Sonata Concertante for Harp and Violin Op. 115 (ed Call and Kaufman)
Louis Kaufman (violin) with Frederick Hammond (harpsichord) and Susann McDonald (harp)
Recorded c1970 (Telemann) and February 1972 (Spohr)
MUSIC AND ARTS CD 905 [68.05]


Though greatly admired for his romantic affiliations and for his unflagging commitment to the then contemporary literature - Martinů, Wirén, Sauguet, Larsson amongst many - Louis Kaufman (1905-1994) was a broad-minded violinist. He was the vibrant soloist on the soundtrack of many a Fox film – Gone with the Wind, Modern Times, For Whom the Bell Tolls. That gloriously flamboyant tone remained with him for much of the rest of his life, illuminating even the unlikeliest crevice of his repertoire. Those who have heard his Delius First Sonata, for example, will know what I mean. In this Music and Arts release, taped towards the end of his active career, Kaufman essays Telemann and Spohr, the former in his own edition, and they make for welcome discmates.

Yes, the sound is rather dry and unvarnished; it does tend to skew the aural perspective in favour of the glamorous violin soloist and this in turn intensifies his occasional overpowering of Frederick Hammond’s musicianly and discreet harpsichord playing. Whether it’s the recording or Kaufman’s misjudgement his playing is also sometimes simply too loud for optimum points of dynamic variance to be observed – something that can be noted in the Adagio of the Sonata in G [No. 1] – though his sheer expressivity is never in doubt. These are in fact characterful and committed performances that are laced with Kaufman’s brand of inflective devices to further deepen the curve of the music – listen to the finger position changes in the Andante of No. 1, with the discreet but assuredly Old School portamenti as well. In the Allemande of the Sonata in D his coiled, intense and oscillatory vibrato makes its own distinctive mark and the concluding Gigue is bold and vigorous. We can admire his piquant hyper-Romanticisms in the Allegro of the Sonata in B [No. 3], especially at such a jog-trot tempo whilst in that sonata’s concluding Vivace he really digs into the string – there’s real relish here, a real sense of romantic phraseology at work.

He certainly warms to the vocality of the sonata in A and lavishes care and tonal resources on the rise and fall of its melodic line, allowing him to inflect at will, varying vibrato usage - colour and speed - as he does so. Kaufman was, whatever one’s objections, a powerfully communicative musician and the Fifth Sonata bears witness to his crisp bowing, his sensitively employed diminuendi on certain repeated phrases - variance intensifying interest. We can also admire Hammond’s excellent contribution, not least to the Adagio of this sonata, where his eloquence is palpable. In the sixth and final of the set, in A, Kaufman gives the Corrente a delicious little kick and ends the Gigue with a fine flourish of triumph. For the Spohr Sonata Concertante he is joined by harpist Susann McDonald. There are plenty of lyrical opportunities for both musicians in the first movement and in the Larghetto they bring out every gorgeous strand. The finale – which does rather overstay its welcome – nevertheless has a lovely middle section to which both musicians give their considerable and appreciable sensitivity; Kaufman is particularly vibrant and alive.

Edited and performed by Kaufman with directness and robustness these recordings amplify the impressions made by his Four Seasons discs and those of L’Estro Armonico. He was an alluring tonalist who with vibrant discretion put his expressive potential at the service of older music.

Jonathan Woolf

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