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Arnold Rosé – First Violin of Vienna
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen Op.20 (1878) [4.03]
Spanish Dance – Danzas españolas No.8 in C Op.26 No.2 (1882) [3.24]
Pietro NARDINI (1722-1793)
Violin Sonata No.7 in B flat - Larghetto [3.09]
Violin Sonata No.7 in B flat - Rondo [2.55]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto Op.11 (1830) – Romanza [3.14]
Nocturne Op.9 No.2 arranged Wilhelmj (1830-31) [3.07]
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911)
Romance in G Op.26 (1886) [3.11]
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Nocturne Op.22 arranged Arnold Rosé [3.48]
Heinrich ERNST (1814-1865)
Fantasia brillante on themes from Rossini’s Otello Op.11 (1839) [3.48]
Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
String Quartet No.1 – Scherzo [3.21]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Minuetto arranged for quartet [3.28]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata in G BWV1001 – Adagio [3.49]
Orchestral Suite No.3 BWV1068 – Air [4.35]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Quartet Op.130 – Alla danza tadesca [3.23]
String Quartet Op.18 No.4 – Allegro [4.22]
Romance in F Op.50 (1798) [2.49]
Ruins of Athens – Overture [4.22] +
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
String Quartet K465 – Minuetto [3.59]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)        
Violin Concerto in E Op.64 (1844) – Andante [3.36]
Karl GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Violin Concerto in A op.28 (1877) – Allegro moderato [4.00]

Madrigal [2.39]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise brillante No.1 in D Op.64 (1853) [2.51]
Arnold Rosé (violin)
Unidentified pianists
Rosé String Quartet
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Arnold Rosé +
rec. 1909-36
ARBITER 148 [78.02]

This 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.
As 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.
So much for the discography.
Rosé’s 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.
Rosé’s Danzas 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 studio orders.
As 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.
This 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.
Jonathan Woolf 


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