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Zino Francescatti
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Sonata No.2 in A BWV 1015 [12.39]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in E flat K481 [21.42]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.3 in E flat Op.12 No.3 [14.45]
Violin Sonata No. 4 in A minor Op.23 [17.22]
Zino Francescatti (violin)
Robert Casadesus (piano)
Recorded 1950-54
BIDDULPH 80214-2 [70.12]

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Biddulph keeps up its perceptive retrieval of hard-to-trace Francescatti-Casadesus recordings. The two Beethoven sonatas are not to be confused with the slightly later stereo remakes, and they complete the mono recordings that the two Frenchmen left behind – they never recorded the cycle in mono though they did in stereo (the mono Nos 7, 8 and 9 are on Biddulph 80210).

Biddulph claims that the Mozart sonata was never released commercially by American Columbia at the time – which is true – but I was under the impression that the same was the case with the Bach. If so the acoustic may account for a reluctance to issue it, as it’s rather swimmy and it catches a rather on/off tone from the violinist. This is grand, old school Bach playing, full of expression in slow movements and exceptionally clean technically. Francescatti’s at his most winning in the intensity of the third movement Andante.

Despite the distinction of his Concerto recordings Francescatti only recorded one Mozart sonata with Casadesus. It’s rather dullishly recorded and airless which might be a contributing facture to its having been held back. Maybe someone also took a good long listen to the leaden introduction to the slow movement – a terrible miscalculation for so authoritative a Mozartian pairing - and agreed that whilst the subsequent cantabile playing is august it doesn’t compensate for the misjudgement.

On balance however it’s the two Beethoven sonatas in which we find the best playing. Try the buoyancy of the opening of the E flat sonata and the increasingly ardent expression of its Adagio. Or listen to the splendid ensemble in the A minor with its difficult rhythmic machinations in the central movement. Or indeed the violinist’s coiled tone in the outer movements, so impressively tensile yet without any harshness.

I once swore to ram this message home whenever Biddulph produced their cavalierly unhelpful booklets devoid of all matrix and release details – but then lost heart. Well, there’s no excuse for it here; Francescatti and Casadesus re-recorded the Beethoven sonatas in stereo as we know but the browser really doesn’t want to trawl through the notes to find out which is mono and which stereo. Does Biddulph think it sexy to dispense with all this anoraky old stuff – is that it? I can’t believe Eric Wen really thinks so.

Jonathan Woolf







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