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Zino Francescatti

Chaconne in G minor arranged Leopold Charlier [9:05]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani [4:50]
Grave in the style of W.F.Bach [4:19]
Minuet in the style of Porpora [2:50]
Allegretto in the style of Boccherini [2:16]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
ThaÔs – Mťditation (1894) [4:50]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Marche joyeuse (1888) arranged Samuel Dushkin [3:56]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Presto for piano in B flat major arranged Jascha Heifetz [1:37]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
O canto do cysne negro [2:33]
Julian AGUIRRE (1868-1924)
Ao pť da Foqueira (Preludio XV) [1:23]
Londonderry Air arranged Fritz Kreisler [4:56]
NiccolÚ PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Variations on “Carnival of Venice” Op.10 (1829) [12:03]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane (1924) [8:23]
Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (1863) [8:46]
Zino Francescatti (violin)
Artur Balsam (piano)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy (Saint-SaŽns)
rec. 1947 (Ravel), 1950 (Saint-SaŽns), 1954 (Paganini) and 1951, remainder
BIDDULPH 802242 [72:27]
Experience Classicsonline

Biddulph continues its exploration of Francescatti’s legacy with this miscellaneous recital, a large part of which derives from a Balsam-accompanied Columbia LP recorded in January 1951. The rest form entertaining and valuable satellite performances.
The disc gets underway with the Vitali Chaconne, heard in its then accustomed guise in the arrangement by Leopold Charlier. This is warmed by the violinist’s characteristically sweet tone and fast vibrato. It’s also aided in no small measure by Balsam’s assertive pianism and by his having been well balanced. The French violinist plays with captivating brilliance albeit one or two corners are turned with just a shade too much calculation. There is a sequence of pieces by Kreisler. Strangely the Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani receives a poor reading. The opening is too militarily foursquare to let the majestic theme emerge naturally and the contrasts are thereby exaggerated. It lacks nobility, grandeur and cumulative force. If Elgar should have recorded his own Introduction and Allegro – and famously he didn’t – then Kreisler should have recorded not only Elgar’s Concerto but Kreisler’s own Praeludium as well. I’ve never known why it slipped through his recording net. The “W F Bach” Grave is much better; Francescatti sounds far more at home here, especially with regard to tempo and vibrato usage and dynamics. Balsam is once more valuably assertive in the Allegretto where we find Francescatti is at his most spruce and urbane.
Massenet’s Meditation finds him in lofty, patrician form whereas he turns on the vibrato for the Chabrier-Dushkin. There’s real verve in the Poulenc-Heifetz Presto though I think the following Villa-Lobos is more reflective of his greatest gifts – evocative, lambent playing with its rippling piano undercurrent. He essays the Londonderry Air as well. Most post-War performances are slower than their pre-War counterparts; Kreisler and Sammons took it relatively quickly, but Francescatti basks in its warmth, his flecking vibrato giving it a chaste ardour, at least until his weird E string harmonics episode toward the end which almost ruins it. The Paganini Variations find him on home turf – his Paganini was famed and his own Paganinian lineage, via his father’s studies with Sivori, exemplary. His Ravel is warm, again just a touch urbane, not exaggerated. And then there’s the Odd Man Out; the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with Ormandy and the Philadelphia, the orchestral interlopers in an otherwise all-Balsam accompanied disc.
Some of the sides could do with a treble boost, and as ever there are minimal discographic details from Biddulph; house style predominates over valuable, necessary matters I’m afraid. Still, some charismatic short performances are enshrined in this nevertheless very welcome disc.
Jonathan Woolf


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