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Twenty Great Violinists – Original mono recordings 1917-1955
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Caprice Viennois
– Fritz Kreisler, Carl Lamson (piano). rec. New York April 1926 [3.27] 
Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor – third movement ‘La Campanella’ – Bronislaw Huberman, Paul Frenkel (piano). rec. New York, January 1923 [4.32] 
Gaspard CASSADÓ (1886-1966)
Danse du diable vert
– Albert Spalding, Andre Benoist (piano). rec. New York, May 1937 [3.10] 
Riccardo DRIGO (1846-1930)
Valse Bluette
– Efrem Zimbalist, Emmanuel Bay (piano). rec. New York, August 1928 [2.04] 
Frantisek DRDLA (1869-1944)
– Mischa Elman, Philip Gordon (piano). rec. New Jersey, January 1917 [3.33] 
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Sonata in C minor ‘Siciliano’ – Adolf Busch, Artur Balsam (piano). rec. New York, May 1942 [3.41] 
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No. 3
in F sharp minor – Joseph Szigeti, Andor Foldes (piano). rec. New York, November 1941 [2.13] 
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Humoresque No. 7
– Georg Kulenkampff, Franz Rupp (piano). rec. Berlin, January 1928 [3.10] 
Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)
Hora Staccato
– Jascha Heifetz , Emmanuel Bay (piano). rec. Hollywood, 1950 [2.03] 
– Zino Francescatti, Artur Balsam (piano). rec. New York, October 1947 [2.57]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
– Nathan Milstein, Artur Balsam (piano). rec. New York, October 1940 [2.32]
Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908)
Concert Fantasy on Gounod’s Faust
– Erica Morini, Max Lanner (piano). rec. New York, November 1941 [2.24] 
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Six Rumanian folk dances
– David Oistrakh, Vladimir Yampolsky (piano), rec. Moscow 1955 [5.35] 
Otakar NOVAK (1866-1900)
Perpetuum mobile
– Ricardo Odnoposoff, Otto Hertz (piano). rec. New York, May 1945 [2.34] 
Franz RIES (1846-1932)
La Capricciosa
– Yehudi Menuhin, Louis Persinger (piano). rec. Oakland Ca, March 1928 [2.29] 
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
– Ruggiero Ricci, Eugene Bigot and the Lamoureux Orchestra rec. Paris, December 1947 [8.51] 
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) 
– Isaac Stern, Alexander Zakin (piano). rec. New York, November 1947 [2.55] 
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Finale from Violin sonata No. 9 – Leonid Kogan, Grigori Ginsburg (piano). rec. unknown [8.45] 
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Scherzo Tarantelle
in G minor – Ida Haendel, Adela Kotawska (piano). rec. London, April 1942 [4.11] 
Motto perpetuo
– Michael Rabin, Donald Voorhees and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra rec. New York, January 1953 [3.05]

It’s a bit of a challenge to review a CD of this multiplicity of tracks and come out with something that makes sense.  Add to that, despite my love for the violin, I am certainly no expert at it.  I am an expert at listening, however.  In this case it is made more difficult by the sheer amount of music:  a) that is on offer on this CD,  b) that is composed largely by different composers, and c) that is played by twenty virtuosi.  So rather than make a fool of myself I will restrict myself largely to observation and information.
The thing that strikes you from the start is the number of composers and/or soloists that do not have a supposed ‘Anglo-Saxon’ name.  All the composers, from Brahms to Kreisler to Paganini, are of European extraction and of the soloists all (except Albert Spalding and perhaps Ruggiero Ricci) have Central European/Slavic names.  Of the twenty virtuosi on display on this CD only five were brought up in non-European environments.  One, Ricardo Odnoposoff, was actually born in Buenos Aires (but of Russian parentage) whereas Spalding, Menuhin, Ricci and Rabin were all born in the USA.  What does that prove you may ask?  Well nothing very much as such, but it does lead one to assume that violin-playing at the highest level is an art nurtured more in Central Europe than anywhere else in the world.  And, of those who have not been brought up in Europe, their surnames would indicate that their fore-fathers may have passed on those European values.
Of course, I am dealing here with a small sample on which to base my assumptions but I welcome hearing from anyone who has further ideas, and indeed information, on the subject. These days, of course, there has been a tremendous addition of excellent soloists from the Far East as well.  There must be a reason for this too.  Once again if you have any thoughts on the subject pray share them with us. 
So what about this album of mono recordings from the years 1917-1955?  If I’d had advanced information I would have recommended it as a very suitable Christmas present.  As it is I will suggest that you get it for yourself.  It is delightful, engaging, it offers a variety of styles and is thoroughly entertaining.  Most of the pieces are well-known (Paganini’s La Campanella, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5, Dvorak’s Humoresque No. 7 etc ) and those that are not familiar are worthwhile getting to know anyhow.
The pieces that caught my ear were Ricci playing Ravel’s Tzigane, Odnoposoff performing Novak’s Perpetuum Mobile and Heifetz’s rendition of Dinicu’s Hora Staccato.  Regarding the latter two there is something exhilarating about listening to a soloist challenging the odds - in this case what appears to be devilishly-difficult fingering - and surviving triumphantly.
A highly recommended album … even if it is still in its original mono!
Randolph Magri-Overend

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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