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The Great Violinists Volume XIX
Beethoven Violin Sonatas
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No. 6 in A major Op. 30 No. 1
Jenö Léner (violin) and Louis Kentner (piano)
Recorded 1939
Sonata No. 8 in C major Op. 30 No. 3
Fritz Kreisler (violin) and Sergei Rachmaninov (piano)
Recorded 1928
Sonata No. 10 in G major Op. 96
Adila Fachiri (violin) and Donald Tovey (piano)
Recorded (1927?)
SYMPOSIUM 1312 [65.45]


Volume Nineteen in Symposium’s invaluably eclectic violin series is devoted to Beethoven Sonatas recorded between 1927 and 1938. As the centrepiece there is the canonical Kreisler-Rachmaninov Op. 30 No. 3 but surrounding it is more esoteric, collectors’ fare. The first of the Op. 30 set is played by the all-Hungarian duo of Jenö Léner and Louis Kentner. Famed for his eponymous quartet, that the Hubay student had led for almost twenty years by the time he came to make this New York recording, Léner made only two solo sets. The other, made shortly before this one, was of the Spring Sonata and this is, so far as I’m aware, the first time that either has made an appearance since the days of 78s. The qualities of expressive warmth and cantabile phrasing that illuminated his quartet playing – somewhat to the discomfiture of more purely intellectual listeners – are refreshingly present in this Sonata recording. There’s a warm and open-hearted lyricism to the phrasing that is entirely consonant with the quartet’s Beethoven recordings (they were famously the first to record the complete cycle). There are a few scratches along the way but the recording quality was quite reasonable for its date.

The other previously unknown quantity for most people will be the pairing of Adila Fachiri and Donald Tovey in the G major. Another of that famed generation of Hungarian expatriates (Léner, Szigeti, Telmanyi and so many more). Fachiri was also a Hubay pupil and later still of Joachim, whose niece she was. She and her more famous sister Jelly d’Aranyi had lived in London since 1913 and their association with Tovey was of long standing. This rare 1927 example of his pianism was recorded for Compton Mackenzie’s National Gramophonic Society, which used Vocalion studios. This accounts for the somewhat disappointing quality of sound and for the very over-recorded piano (a boon to Tovey admirers of course but more troublesome in relation to ensemble). Fachiri’s accompanying figuration frequently goes for nothing courtesy of the recorded balance and her slow vibrato is idiosyncratic, doubtless a feature of her ingrained Hubay habits. One does feel that she is straining for a degree of phrasal elasticity that Tovey is disinclined to indulge. Tovey is at his most impressive in the slow movement – where he is veritably gale-like - whilst their finale is not especially buoyant and Fachiri’s lower strings sound rather pedestrian. Still, this is a first ever re-release and an important document not least for Tovey’s consistently illuminating playing. The Kreisler-Rachmaninov has been better transferred elsewhere (Biddulph, RCA) and I rather wish Symposium had taken the opportunity to complete collectors’ interest by including a rarer set – say the Spring Sonata played by Albert Sammons and William Murdoch on Columbia or by Robert Zeiler and Bruno Seidler-Winkler on Polydor. Another time, maybe.

Two first ever re-releases constitute something of a catch. The documentation is pretty reasonable as well, so a strong welcome to a specialist though historically valuable disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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