is the first time that a substantial selection of Arnold
Rosé’s solo recordings has been available since the distant
days of LP, which makes this latest release from the ever
discriminating Arbiter label all the more valuable. Rosé was
concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic for many years,
erstwhile soloist, first violin of his eponymous quartet
and occasional conductor and he’s heard in three of these
capacities in this well filled disc; he can be heard elsewhere
as concertmaster in the Vienna Philharmonic’s recordings
of the 1920s and 1930s.
I say we’ve had to wait a long time for a disc such as
this. Masters of the Bow and Rococo both issued LPs devoted
to his solo recordings back in the 1970s or thereabouts.
As far as I can tell all of the Arbiter solo discs have
been reissued in some form or other, the bulk on the two
LPs noted above. Of CD re-issues Pearl’s Recorded Violin Volume
I included two Rosé items – the Bach sonata Prelude
(which is here) and Sarasate’s Faust Fantasia (which is
not). EMI’s double LP set devoted to the Great Violinists
duplicates the Ernst Otello Fantasia. Testament’s two CD
set The Great Violinists - Recordings from 1900-1913 has
three Rosé sides – the Otello, Danzas españolas No.8 (both
on Arbiter, and I’m assuming since I don’t have the Testament
that they share the same issue and take numbers) and Brahms’s
Hungarian Dance in G minor, which is not here. Biddulph’s
two-disc set is devoted principally to the electrically
recorded quartet sides but did include the Bach sonata
Prelude and the quartet-arranged Orchestral Suite Air [on
the G string] as does Arbiter.
much for the discography.
recordings are an important constituent of violin playing
on disc and no survey of that art could exist without a
representative survey of his acoustic discs. As a performer
his was a late nineteenth century style, with minimal vibrato,
its usage reserved for moments of maximal expressive impact.
His intonation was said to be unimpeachable and sounds
it here; there are very few moments when it sounds compromised – the
electric Bach is one case and to my ears the Larghetto
of the Nardini sonata. Possibly gut strings suffered in
the studio. Digitally he was athletic and supple and he
doesn’t slow down to take difficult stretches as a more
technically compromised contemporary might – the English
player John Dunn is a case in point. His slides are glamorous
and very quick, almost gulped; good taste inured him to
gauche finger position changes and many of the extravagant
portamenti that players such as Marie Hall and Maud Powell
espoused in their recordings. The vibrato itself is slow
and sounds undernourished to our ears. The lack of warmth
can militate against certain compositions, which have to
survive more on elegance than on vibrancy and tonal allure.
españolas No. 8 in C is a vivid example of his art.
Vibrato usage is intensified, digital flexibility is
always audible and the plying is clean, expert and impressive.
His Ernst is splendidly polished and the Beethoven Romance
features his characteristic brilliantly quick slides.
In the Bach Air we hear his velvety viola-like tone but
also a few signs of frailty. The excerpt from the Goldmark
should remind us that he’d played the work to considerable
appreciation; he’s technically adroit and sports a prayerful
central section but his vibrato is too slow to project
with any richness and the lack of vibrance is a distinct
limitation when set against the emergent young tonalists
of the day. The Quartet movements are rare in this form
but they evince comparable qualities of balance and poise.
The Alla danza tadesca from String Quartet Op.130
in particular emerges as lightly and lissomly bowed and
the others, mostly Light Music in orientation, display
some enviably balanced playing. It ought to be noted,
at least in passing, that many of these items are abridged
and that in that respect the artist was simply obeying
for the transfers the Arbiter has retained a relatively
high level of surface noise. There are some scuffs and
a very little blasting but the sound is very forward and
warm. Compared with the old EMI LP set that forward sound
strikes the ear immediately, more so than the steely surface
noise. Biddulph’s Bach Air on The G String has dealt
well with surface noise but is correspondingly airless – Arbiter’s
has a much higher ratio of surface noise but this allows
you to catch all the overtones and to hear Rose’s tone
in the full, not least that rich viola-like tone. The ear
soon adjusts to Arbiter’s sound and I prefer its minimally
filtered work and capturing of the core sound.
is another important release from this company, enshrining
a fine selection of discs some deriving, the disc notes,
from the Rosé family’s own archive. Excellent notes from
Tully Potter, with first class photographic reproductions
as well. This is a cornerstone collection for those interested
in the violin on disc in the early twentieth century.