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The Great Violinists. Volume XXI
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Partita No.3 in E major – Prelude BWV1006
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Caprice Jota
Tarantelle
Miramar-Zortico
Caprice Basque
Zigeunerweisen
Habanera
Zapateado
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in E flat Op.9 No.2 arranged SARASATE
Pablo de Sarasate (violin)
Unnamed accompanist (piano)

Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Moto perpetuo
Franz DRDLA (1869-1944)

Serenade
Maria Theresa von PARADIES

Sonata No.6 in A major – Toccata
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Jota Aragonesa
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Legende
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Violin Concerto in E minor Op.64 – finale
Louis-Claude DAQUIN (1694-1772)

Pièces de clavecin – Le Coucou arranged MANÉN
Louis Joseph Ferdinand HÉROLD (1791-1833)

Le Pré aux Clercs – Entr’acte and Aria*
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Il Re Pastore – L’amerò, sarò costante*
Juan Manén (violin)
Unnamed band and conductor
Hedwig Francillo-Kaufmann (soprano)*
Recorded Sarasate Paris, 1904, Manén Berlin, c.1912-15
SYMPOSIUM 1328 [67.20]

 

The theme of the twenty-first volume in Symposium’s thankfully unbroken series of Great Violinists is Spain. Sarasate of course, is one of the progenitors; one of the great figures in recorded history whose ten sides are so much a totemic rock of any collection. But also Juan Manén (1883-1971), the greatest Catalan fiddler of his generation, born in Barcelona, who made his Carnegie Hall debut at fifteen and was the first to record the Beethoven Violin Concerto – beating the better known Isolde Menges by a short head.

The Sarasates are hardly newcomers and I don’t really have a huge amount to add, materially and descriptively. But to those unfamiliar with his lightning fast Bach, or elsewhere the slow sporadically applied vibrato (try Miramar-Zortico) or the fabulous pizzicatos that dazzle in Caprice Basque, or the pellucid but lyrically reduced playing of the Chopin, then the historical importance of these ten sides cannot be overstressed.

Pearl have issued them over the years and Testament have also issued a double CD devoted to great violinists which is a repackaging and enlarging of the optimistically titled double LP set issued in the mid 1980s – it was Volume 1 ... and Volume 2 never appeared. Comparison with the splendidly all inclusive Pearl sets devoted to the history of the Violin on record – which didn’t include all the Sarasates – shows that these Symposiums are quieter, have utilised copies in better condition but also have somewhat less presence. I’ve not been able to sample the Testament set, which would be the acid test for those wanting all the Sarasates.

Manén was a very old-fashioned player. For someone born between Thibaud (1880) and Sammons (1886) his style harks back to the aesthetics of a pre-Kreislerian. It doesn’t help that he’s saddled with a brassy oom-pah accompaniment in the Berlin studios. His vibrato is slow, unwarmed and on/off, the salon-slides predictable and gauche (Drdla), and the playing very small scale (Wieniawski). When it comes to the finale of the Mendelssohn, in which he was discographically at least taking a leaf out of Ysaÿe’s book – his Columbia was recorded a few years earlier – we find that he really rushes, applies some juddering rallentandi, and that his conception is elastic to a remarkable degree. Ysaÿe once admitted he’d sped up at the end of the side to fit the finale onto one 12" side but his mastery was one to which the Catalan simply couldn’t aspire. And yet there are felicitous and delightful touches not least in the Daquin and Paradies and they show why he was an admired player in the first quarter of the twentieth century. He did play on but had long been eclipsed by successive schools of vibrant tonalists.

Manén hasn’t been well served by reissues so these Ankers and Parlophones are valuable to have under one roof. There’s some wear and blasting here and there, particularly in the obbligato performances where he accompanies soprano Hedwig Francillo-Kaufmann. Otherwise these are honest transfers. Notes are more so-so but they do cover the biographical material well – but this is the kind of issue that calls for some comments on style and performance practice.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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