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William Primrose Collection Volume 4
Henri CASADESUS (1879-1947)

Viola Concerto in B minor in the Style of Handel [15.21]
RCA Victor Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann, recorded May 1946
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Harold in Italy (1834) [41.24]
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini, recorded live, October 1946
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani) [5.02]
Franz Rupp (piano), recorded August 1941
William Primrose (viola) with accompaniments as above
DOREMI DHR 7784 [61.55]


Volume Four – and counting – and Doremi is staying loyal to the Prince of Violists, William Primrose. That said, collectors will be in a dilemma. The so-called Handel is the Casadesus forgery and it’s hardly terra incognita as far as CD transfers are concerned. The Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro, a fine envoi, is similarly also represented in the catalogue. So it’s the Berlioz with Toscanini, which will stir the most interest though this originally appeared on a Toscanini Society LP and has recently been re-issued by Music & Arts, a disc to which regrettably I’ve not had access.

The Primrose completist should know that neither the Casadesus nor the Kreisler transfers measure up against the competition. Turn to a recent Naxos disc and you’ll find the Doremi corpulent in the extreme with bass heavy, unaertated textures; Mark Obert-Thorn’s work is greatly preferable. Rick Torres for Biddulph has also transferred this and his has a touch of Sheffield Steel in the sound mix, less warm and immediate than Obert-Thorn’s work, but still leagues ahead of this Doremi. Note that the Pearl Primrose disc (with the Sinfonia Concertante with Spalding and the Brahms Second Sonata with Moore) has the pre-war British recording of the Casadesus conducted by Goehr – the post War Weissmann is in any case the better performance.

The Kreisler faces competition from a Pearl disc, which sports the two Brahms sonatas (Kapell in No.1 and Moore – as above – in No.2), Benjamin and Harris. This Roger Beardsley work is similarly preferable to the Doremi – a lot of characteristic Pearl bacon fat fry is preferable to tubby sonics and shellac thumps.

Which leaves the Berlioz. This was recorded privately for Toscanini, and he played it to Primrose when the Scotsman came to the conductor’s plush villa. Poor Primoroso the Italian snickered when he listened to the slightly earlier commercial disc that Primrose had recorded with Koussevitzky. The contours of the performance are certainly divergent. Toscanini is significantly broader than the Russian in Harold in the Mountains but makes up for lost ground in the March of the Pilgrims, whose alert clip is more sharply etched than the earlier 1944 recording and radically different from Beecham’s more leisurely restraint in his later LP with Primrose. Similarly with the Serenade where Toscanini’s ideas diverge markedly from Koussevitsky’s, whose Orgy is also less tense than Toscanini’s. Primrose and Toscanini mavens will necessarily need a recording of this Harold, whether in Music & Arts’ transfer or this one. Here there’s been some noise reduction but the results are very listenable.

Jonathan Woolf




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