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Guila Bustabo – Ruggiero Ricci. The Great Violinists Volume XV
Ottokar NOVACEK (1866-1900)

Perpetuum Mobile
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (arr Achron)
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne No.8 Op.27/2 (arr Wilhelmj)
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Danzas Españolas No.2 Habañera Op.21 No.2
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Caprice in A minor Op.1 No.5
Concerto No.1 Op.6 – First Movement
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Vocalise Op.34 No.14 (arr. Press)
Pablo de SARASATE (1782-1840)

Introduction and Tarantelle Op.43
Danzas Españolas No.2 Habañera Op.21 No.2
Zigeunerweisen Op.20 No.1
Eugene YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Rêve d’enfant
Josef SUK (1874-1935)

Four Pieces Op.17 – No.4 Burlesque
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Mosè in Egitto – Dal tu stellato soglio (arr Paganini)
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Concerto No.2 in B minor Op.7 – Ronde à la clochette
First seven items; Guila Bustabo (violin) with Gerald Moore (piano) recorded 1935 except Danzas Españolas No 2 Habañera with Heinz Schröter (piano) recorded ?1941 and the Paganini Concerto with the Städtischen Orkester, Berlin conducted by Fritz Zaun and recorded ?1941
Remainder; Ruggiero Ricci (violin) with Louis Persinger (piano) in Vocalise and Introduction and Tarantelle and the remainder with Karl Fürstner (piano) recorded 1938-39
SYMPOSIUM 1301 [78.39]


Two Americans violinists were born in successive years and nearly a continent apart. The older, by a year, was Guila Bustabo, Wisconsin born in 1917 and the other was Ruggiero Ricci. Both studied with the leading American pedagogue of the day Louis Persinger and both soon gravitated to Europe. Bustabo enjoyed the greater early celebrity, making her London debut in 1934 and recording talent scouts were clearly out in force as she went into the studios the following year to record with Gerald Moore. She was eighteen. Ricci studied with Kulenkampff in Germany but the early days were for him days of struggle and complication and blighted by family problems and custody battles. He did though manage to record a number of sides in the late 1930s before, unlike Bustabo, he returned to America.

These are the sides that Symposium has collated in Volume XV of their Great Violinist series. The yoking together of these two figures is both appropriate therefore and salutary. Bustabo, like Ricci, was a technical gymnast of a quite extraordinary kind and at eighteen was already set for an international career. She exhibits stunning virtuosity here though wisely she was asked to balance the finger-busting Sarasate, Novacek and Paganini with a little Mendelssohn and Chopin. The Novacek is strongly etched and accented and the Paganini Concerto’s first movement cadenza is magnificently despatched with some truly ear-catching precision. But, this early in her career there are also negative evaluations to be made of her musicianship. Her vibrato could incline to the queasy, as it does in the Mendelssohn, with the swells and ardently youthful playing impressive in the lower strings and double stopping but less convincing in total. In the Chopin Nocturne her tone, perversely, seems rather thin and there is some technical untidiness; the phrasing is rather lacking in naturalness as well and Gerald Moore, valiant though he is, is only semi-audible. He sounds thoroughly bemused by his violinist partner in the Kreisler, whose rhythmic unsteadiness and capricious phraseology lead him a merry dance. In 1941, in Germany, she recorded Sarasate’s Habañera and here her tone sounds distinctly nasal though the virtuosity is quite undimmed. It was around this time that she and Mengelberg were taped in a splendid series of concerto performances of which the Bruch G minor was without question the most radiant and marvellous. It’s one of the very best performances ever recorded of this piece and shows her at her best. Bustabo has been celebrated by ‘A Classical Record’ whose set included her Sibelius and Wolf-Ferrari Concertos amongst much else. Admirers should seek it out.

Ricci is represented by eight items from 1938-39. There are some romantic pieces here as well as a fine slew of virtuoso showpieces – sinewy vibrato in Paganini’s Variations on Mosè, devilish panache in Ronde a la clochette, a cholesterol rich Sarasate Introduction and Tarantella, a truly swaggering Habañera but also, often overlooked, the lyric intensity and expressive nuance of Ysaye’s Rêve d’enfant. Zigeunerweisen, the warhorse of warhorses, has some daredevil attack in the Allegro molto vivace section and is a powerfully propulsive and energized performance. It also features a fine ear for dynamic variance, and though seeming fast still manages perfectly to articulate. It’s a pity that the Mattheson Air in B is missing because this was a most affecting performance but the Ysaÿe is splendid. One of the best pieces here is Michael Press’ arrangement of Vocalise with Ricci’s lasciviously intense vibrato held in check and all the more affecting for it. I reviewed a number of these Ricci items recently in a Dynamic 10 CD celebration. That would be an unwieldy purchase but this one has slightly better transfers of the source material and avoids doing what Dynamic did to Ricci’s Zigeunerweisen – which is separately to track it, as if it was a Sonata.

Good apposite notes are here and this disc captures two contemporaries whose lives took them in radically different directions but whose musical instincts never deserted them.

Jonathan Woolf



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