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Violin Romances
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G Op. 40 (c.1802) [6:49]
Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in F Op. 50 (c.1798) [7:55]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803 - 1869)
Rêverie et Caprice, for violin and orchestra Op.8 (1839) [7:27]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Sérénade mélancolique Op.26 (1875) (1875)
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Violin Concerto No 2 in D minor Op. 22 – Romance (1862) [4:12]
Légende Op.17 [6:56]
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911)
Romance in G major Op.26 (1881) [6:46]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Rondo in A major for violin and string orchestra D348 (1816) [13:01]
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Edo de Waart
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Raymond Leppard (Schubert)
rec. Wembley Town Hall, London, 1967 (Schubert) and Brent Town Hall, London 1970 (remainder)
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 442 8290 [62:10]

Universal Music’s Australian division has been seriously active in reissuing some of the more hard to find items in Arthur Grumiaux’s 1960s-70s discography. This is very much a case in point; a concertante-type album in which he’s accompanied by Edo de Waart and the New Philharmonia in an October 1970 session, and - the sole exception – a Neville Marriner led 1970 Schubert Rondo.
This significant programme of restorations then is more than welcome. It teams the soloist with an orchestra with which he’d first recorded nearly twenty-five years before – that Bach Double with Grumiaux, Jean Pougnet and the Philharmonia from 1946 is crying out to be reissued by the way. The purity and elegance of Grumiaux’s playing, his expressive but aristocratic phrasing is ideal for the Beethoven Romances. If, in the final resort, he lacks David Oistrakh’s sovereign personality and breadth in these works he brings other attributes and admirers will want to hear him. The Berlioz Rêverie et Caprice was long associated, on disc at least, with Szigeti who made a famous recording of it with Constant Lambert, often reissued, and again with the Philharmonia. If that seems odd tonally, it shouldn’t intellectually, and Szigeti proved a noted exponent of a difficult work to bring off. Grumiaux evinces a refined nobility, with a suave vocality but without undue exaggeration, and with no loss of temperament.
The Tchaikovsky Sérénade mélancolique is similarly attractive but rather lacks the ultimate in Slavic allure and intensity; it’s a rare occasion where Grumiaux’s understatement doesn’t really function to the music’s advantage. But he was a fine Vieuxtemps player, which always managed to surprise those critics unable to square the violinist’s elevated Franco-Belgian finesse with what they write off as meretricious concerto potboilers. Here he plays the Romance from the Second Concerto adeptly, though I feel his Légende – in direct opposition to what I’ve just written – remains a little earthbound.
No such concerns apply when it comes to the equally small-scale succulence of Svendsen’s Romance in G, once fodder for every aspiring café and salon charmer. It’s beautifully played, warm without ostentation, and rhythmically alive. Finally we have the testing Schubert Rondo with Marriner, played with personable eloquence and tonal purity; a disarmingly attractive performance.
Eloquence, the series’ title, might have been chosen expressly with Grumiaux in mind. And it’s his admirers who will most take to this rather old-fashioned collection, one that shows his effortless strengths (and a few expressive limitations) in sharp focus.
Jonathan Woolf


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