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Aldo Ferraresi – il Gigli del violino: The Great Italian Radio Recordings
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Concerto in B minor Op.61 [41:40]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Milan/Pietro Argento, recorded 22 March 1966
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 Turkish K219 [38:47]
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples/Carlo Zecchi, recorded 21 June 1960
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Concerto No.1  [34:27]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Turin/Mario Rossi, recorded 15 May 1959
Mario GUARINO (1900-1971)
Violin Concerto [38:15]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Milan/Ferruccio Scaglia, recorded 30 July 1969
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Violin Concerto [29:43]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Milan/Milton Forstat, recorded 26 May 1961
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto [34:07]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Turin/Aram Khachaturian, recorded 12 April 1963
Salvatore ALLEGRA (1898-1993)
Violinata alla luna per violino e orchestra [4:48]
Il Pastore errante per violino e orchestra [4:52]
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples/Salvatore Allegra, recorded 27 April 1973
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No.1 Op.6 [32:12]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Rome/Ferruccio Scaglia, recorded 19 November 1966
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto Op.35 [31:37]
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples/Gaetano Delogu, recorded 14 July 1968
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Capriccio-Konzertstück [9:29]
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples/Leopold Ludwig, recorded 1 April 1967
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No.4 [27:41]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Milan/Franco Gallini, recorded 27 April 1963
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
Violin Concerto No.4 [18:05]
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples/Franco Gallini, recorded 13 June 1961
Carlo JACHINO (1887-1971)
Sonata drammatica per violino e orchestra [20:16]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Rome/Milton Forstat, recorded 1 July 1960
Franco MANNINO (1924-2005)
Capriccio dei Capricci (da Paganini due studi per orchestra di virtuosi) Op.50 [10:47]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Rome/Franco Mannino, recorded 19 April 1969
Mario GUARINO (1900-1973)
Violin Sonata [21:53]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 12 April 1972
Franco ALFANO (1876-1954)
Violin Sonata (1923) [25:58]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 10 December 1973
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
La Oracion del Torero for violin and piano [8:19]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 12 May 1966
El Poema de una Sanluqueña [20:11]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 12 May 1966
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Violin Sonata Op.18 [28:27]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 20 November 1970
Karl HOLLER (1908-1987)
Music for violin and piano Op.27 [23:55]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 11 October 1971
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Violin Sonata No.1 [25:51]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 21 July 1965
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.9 Op.47 Kreutzer [30:45] Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 20 November 1970
Eugene YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Poème Élégiaque Op.12 [15:40]
Chant d’hiver Op.15 [10:01]
Divertimento Op.24 [8:14]
Ernesto Galdieri (piano) recorded 21 July 1965
Violin Concerto [9:56]
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI Rome/Massimo Freccia, recorded 23 December 1964 The 78 recordings:
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
Le Ronde de lutins Op.25 [3:03]
Prospero Ferraresi (piano)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebesträume No.3
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Rosenkavalier Waltzes arranged Vasa Příhoda [4:40]
G Favaretto (piano) recorded 1943
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Le Streghe [4:46
C Vidusso (piano) recorded 1929
Aldo Ferraresi (violin) with accompaniments as above
COMITATO GRANDI MAESTRI [No catalogue number] [9 CDs: 70:30 + 70:28 + 73:47 + 73:25 + 66:31 + 67:19 + 71:37 + 56:43 + 61:19]


During the course of my review of IDIS’s La scuola italiani Vol 1 I noted my hope that the many preserved Ferraresi RAI broadcasts might one day be issued (see review). I gave an outline of this unjustly forgotten Italian violinist’s career as well, so I would draw your attention there for those matters. I have to say I had no inkling that a nine CD bonanza would appear a few years later. But here it is. First, though, a biographical reprise for those who don’t know of him.

Born in 1902 Aldo Ferraresi was heard by the visiting Czech violinists Vaša Příhoda and Jan Kubelík who strongly suggested he go to Brussels to study with Eugène Ysaÿe, a course of action he duly followed. Whilst he didn't record prolifically, there are some 78s to his name and a few LPs. These are mainly of genre pieces for Italian HMV - QDLP6048 and QCLP12025 are the ones to look out for - and others for Odeon and Storia della Musica. To the vexing question as to what happened to the Italian violin school between Arrigo Serato (b. 1877) and Salvatore Accardo (b. 1941) Ferraresi adds a new dimension. Certainly Gioconda de Vito (b. 1907 and thus Ferraresi's junior) made her significant mark, not least in recordings. And Pina Carmirelli (b. 1914), leader of the Boccherini Quartet, was another prominent figure in Italian musical life but it's true to say that post-Serato, indeed from significantly before, the Italian school slumbered for a while.

And yet, like many another talented musician, Ferraresi's career was somewhat circumscribed - principally as leader in the Orchestra of San Remo and the San Carlo theatre, or as first violin in the San Carlo Quartet. His numerous concerto engagements elevated him to the status, I suppose, of leader-cum-soloist, though the list of conductors with whom he worked was prodigious enough - Barbirolli, Knappertsbusch, Munch, Cluytens, Celibidache and Rodzinski amongst them. His brother, Cesare, some of whose trio recordings on the Aura label I have recently reviewed, was another splendid violinist, though not quite on a par with his older brother, and was a chamber player and teacher of distinction. The brothers also excelled at the art of Tango playing and Aldo once poached a small fortune in his early days with idiomatic performances. Again like many players he plied his trade from the bottom up - the list of violinists who played in café or so-called Gypsy bands is a long and distinguished one.

The material in this set was broadcast between 1959 and 1973 and there are some of those earlier commercial 78s included as an appendix. The sound is variable but generally good with exceptions as noted.  I’ll take the contents disc by disc. The Elgar Concerto was long known to be amongst the preserved archival material, and was conducted by Argento in 1966. Once past a strange stereo-mono buckle early on this settles down nicely. The performance is very fast, about the fastest I’ve ever heard and to my ears firmly predicated on the Heifetz model. Ferraresi cuts note values short in the early part of the first movement with unsatisfactory results and some of the passagework is unshapely and lacking in perception. The slow movement however is committed and fine, the finale intensely driven. The tempo is challenging but I’d rather a fast one than a languishing one in this concerto. Demerits also include a lack of heft in tonal matters. The conducting is first class. The Mozart Turkish concerto with Carlo Zecchi is played in good style; portamenti are discreet in the slow movement and his singing, rather edgy tone is not at all deficient.

The second disc brings Shostakovich’s First, taped in 1959 with Mario Rossi. This was an early example of his radio art – in fact it’s the earliest such here – and shows his dedication to contemporary works for the violin. He takes a tempo not dissimilar to that habitually adopted by Kogan though the Italian is broader in the slow movement. Nevertheless Ferraresi is less dextrously colourful than Russian players. He was a Franco-Belgian player and one finds repeatedly that he doesn’t dig into the string as Auer pupils or other more modern tonalists do. In this respect I’d point to the playing in this work of Oistrakh and Kogan – whose powerful incision is not mirrored by Ferraresi – and by analogue the Delius playing of Sammons and May Harrison; the former who digs powerfully into the string and the latter whose serene elegance is more the kind of thing Ferraresi does. As a result the Passacaglia takes on a rather different complexity – one that lacks the obvious sense of “weight.”

Coupled with this is the Concerto by Mario Guarino. This is a traditional sounding work and undated, but maybe from the 1950s. It has some luscious moments, a warm sense of nostalgia, freely expressive and generous; the finale summons up things Waltonian and also strange echoes of Rosenkavalier. Ferraresi plays it with delicious abandon.

Talking of Walton, here’s his concerto with Milton Forstat conducting the Milan RAI orchestra in 1961. Walton is on record as having preferred the Italian’s playing to that of Campoli – which is saying something – and he conducted the concerto in Italy in 1953 with Ferraresi; a photograph of the two men together exists but no recording so far as I know. Here the model is not Heifetz. Ferraresi is consistently slower – in fact his approach architecturally reminds one more of his eminent successor Accardo. Rhapsodic and expressive, unpressured – both in approach and string weight - and eloquent this brings a knowing and idiomatic performance. One composer who did manage to have a performance preserved was Khachaturian. This was taped in Turin in 1963. The recording fortunately is not one those blowsy Soviet jobs, and the soloist is not as spotlit as Kogan and Oistrakh in their preserved readings with the composer. The reading conforms to one’s expectations – a lighter, wristier, performance, less intense or oratorical, less portentous and less truly expressive; the kind of way Thibaud might have approached it had his concerto repertoire stretched beyond his statutory single-finger commitments. The two little works by Savatore Allegra (1898-1993) are unpretentious.

Disc Four gives us his famous Paganini First; another performance is on the IDIS disc. His silvery upper voices are always a delight here – though the lower strings are not quite as forthcoming. Ultimately one feels depth of tone is missing from his armoury. The playing really zips along, helped by the fluid, fluent Gallic bowing. The recording is close-up so we can bowing abrasions; there’s also a co-ordination problem after the cadenza. Tchaikovsky (Naples, Delogu, 1968) rushes rather a lot in the first movement but he withdraws his slim, highly focused tone to advantage in the Canzonetta. The finale is powerful though marred by instances of a deficiency of his, some slithery lower string passages. The disc is completed by the Dvořák Capriccio-Konzertstück – maybe he’d heard Příhoda play it. It’s little played but well conducted by the ever-excellent Leopold Ludwig and Ferraresi finds some new tone colours to shade it.

There is more finger busting in the fifth disc where we find Paganini’s Fourth Concerto. Operatic finesse and elegance are here in profusion alongside some occasionally smeary playing when he starts to emote. The bowing is a worthy of a master class in itself. Bazzini’s own Fourth Concerto follows – an acrobatic and aerial opus strong on quasi-operatic vocalism. Dynamic variance and shading are the keys to the slow movement and with fine, up-front winds this is an excellent performance. I don’t know much about Jachino’s Sonata dramamtica – once again with Forstat, this time from Rome in 1960.  It’s a one-movement work but clearly cast into three sections. It’s predominately lyrical, well structured and ends with a Straussian sunset – a good vehicle for Ferrraresi.

Disc six is exclusively Iberian-Italian. Franco Mannino died in 2005. His Paganini-inspired ten-minute Capriccio dei Capricci is rather an odd work; it mixes direct quotation with, once more, some Straussian richness and a degree of frantic orchestral response and then a cataclysmic end. Mario Guarino’s Violin Sonata is much more digestible though not necessarily more distinctive. Its tonal and lyrical profile seemingly fitted Ferraresi’s temperament very nicely and the puckish finale is a delight. It is however subject to some tape problems – a degree of wow. I’ve read about Alfano’s 1923 Sonata but this was my first hearing. I can’t tell if Ferrraresi was driving through it with characteristic vitesse – because elsewhere I’ve read reports of its “forty-minute” length – but he certainly reveals its Delius-like moments - it would have been most intriguing had Ferrraresi performed the Delius Concerto. Trace elements of Respighi and Grieg No.3 as well – and a meaty slow movement, excellently realised by the violinist and the fine Ernesto Galdieri. The Turina is lissom and convincing.

There’s more Turina in the seventh disc, his El Poema de una Sanluqueña. The purposeful terpsichorean elements of this are convincingly met by the duo, who show a real affinity for the genre. Maybe the Strauss sonata could do with a more youthful burnish but it’s certainly not the over-cautious and frankly phlegmatic vehicle it seems to have become in the hands of some of the more youthful of today’s players. Holler’s Music for violin and piano is impressive in its absorption of neo-baroque models. The short, yet austerely lyric sections are splendidly performed, the violinist’s light and elegant playing a real help in the many moments of elastic refinement.

The penultimate volume is devoted to more sonata work. Fauré’s First Sonata surprised me given the violinist’s pedigree. It exaggerates an occasional weakness of his, which is a rather tremulous and unfocused tone. Intonation wanders as well in a sluggish and unconvincing traversal with false entries and too-slow portamenti.  Perhaps he was having a bad day. The Kreutzer sonata was taped in 1970. This was recorded close to the microphone so the brittle and resinous attacks are audible. Phrasing in the central movement is gracioso though there are bowing troubles at 3:48. The finale is underpowered. In general these two performances don’t show him at his best.

Disc nine is our quest’s end. There are some 78s, rather roughly transferred. The Bazzini is ridiculously rushed and truncated and in general the repertoire is inspired by Příhoda – including the Czech player’s own Rosenkavalier transcription. The remainder of the disc is devoted to the important business of works by Ferraresi’s teacher, Ysaÿe. These, however, have been badly compromised by wobbly tape and this plays small havoc. The Concerto – an early, undated work – emerges unscathed full of pert, luscious and playful playing. The Poème Élégiaque Op.12 unfortunately suffers from tape problems, which is a shame as it sounds otherwise impressive. You will need to listen through these problems because Ferraresi has important things to impart on the subjects of lineage and style in this repertoire. 

These nine CDs have been produced by the Comitato per I Grandi Maestri in collaboration with RAI. The “Gigli of the Violin” has been given a worthy tribute in this comprehensive collection. The notes are in Italian and English – three pages of biographical information in English. The box is basic but does the job; each disc is in its individual plastic sheath. Of course this is specialist territory; if you’ve read this much you’ll know that as well as I. Ferraresi was a rather fascinating character and these performances, even when flawed, invariably show spontaneity and excitement. Full marks to Professor Gianluca La Villa for doing so much to further Ferraresi’s memory and working with RAI to ensure that these broadcasts reach a wider audience. Contact him for further information.

Jonathan Woolf



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