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William Primrose
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) attributed, actually Henri CASEDESUS
Concerto in B minor
Victor Symphony Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann recorded May 1946
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784) attributed, probably Johann Gottlieb GRAUN
Sonata in C minor
Yella Pessl (harpsichord) recorded November 1938
Roy HARRIS (1898-1979)
Soliloquy and Dance (1938)
Johanna Harris (piano) recorded January 1942
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
Elegy, Waltz and Toccata (1945)
Jamaican Rhumba (1938)
Matty Rag
From San Domingo (1945)
Vladimir Sokoloff (piano) recorded May 1945
BIDDULPH LAB 146 [64.28]

Between them Biddulph and Pearl are proving to be genuine promoters of the art of William Primrose. Pretty much all mid-period Primrose is now available, sometimes in competing transfers, and at first sight this might seem to be the case here. The Handel Concerto, a cheerful forgery by Henri Casadesus, is not the same recording as that on Pearl, which is the slightly earlier, Walter Goehr-conducted London performance. Biddulph’s is the 1946 remake conducted by Frieder Weissmann who had a good recording career in Germany before the War but left early for South and North America. The later recording catches Primrose’s tone well and I admired his cantilena in the slow movement as well as the rather perkier tempo he adopted in the finale, which is preferable to the sedate one with Goehr. And forgery it may be but I still like the romanticised Mendelssohnian winds in the finale. Once attributed to W F Bach, the Sonata in C minor, an attractive work whoever composed it, is probably by Johann Gottlieb Graun. With Pessl an adroit partner, Primrose shows varieties of tonal and bowing responses in a nobly patrician reading.

The Benjamin triptych is notable for the surety of understanding between violist and Vladimir Sokoloff, his most able pianist, and the depth of rich and floated tone Primrose elicits in the opening Elegy. His handling of the quasi-cadential passages is tremendously impressive in its command; pizzicati spot on and in the Toccata, the rhythmic nuances are conveyed with dazzling precision. In Roy Harris’s Soliloquy and Dance he has the advantage of the composer’s wife as collaborator and she proves a staunch and convincing exponent of her husband’s music. One can but admire their handling of the Soliloquy’s movement from pensive withdrawal to powerful and exultant self-assertion – and the way these oppositional moods are coalesced. Similarly they convey the wind gusts and joie de vivre stomp of the Dance with acid drive. There is little to choose between this transfer and that by Pearl. The disc concludes with four more of Benjamin’s pieces recorded on the same day as the Elegy, Waltz and Toccata but released separately. Jamaican Rhumba is gleeful and dashing, Matty Rag soaked in jazz brio, Cookie a mix of pensive and glamorous in alt playing and From San Domingo is witty and subtly coloured with its hints of the luxurious and also a slight keening edge.

Notes once again in this series are by Tully Potter. Rick Torres’ transfers are on the button. Another distinguished Biddulph release.

Jonathan Woolf


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