This is the second CD appearance of Campoli’s recordings of Bliss’s
Concerto and Theme and Cadenza to appear on the Beulah label.
You’ll find the previous incarnation on 3PD10, where they were
coupled with the Tchaikovsky concerto conducted by Argenta. This
label has proved remarkably loyal to the eminent violinist, recycling
in the interests of furthering volumes in their Art of Campoli
line, one I happily endorse.
wrote the Concerto for Campoli. There’s an amusing illustration
of the working practices the two developed in David Tunley’s
Ashgate biography of the violinist. Spotting a ‘bad’ passage
Campoli would scowl and exaggerate the difficulties, whilst
suggesting alternatives, smiling beatifically at the result
of his handiwork and cooing ‘beautiful’ at Bliss. This cat
and mouse game, in which the poker playing South Londoner
was by no means outsmarted by the composer, extended to the
finale’s bridge passage between cadenza and conclusion. Campoli
wanted to plough on from the cadenza, whilst Bliss wanted
his mysterious gauzy orchestral half lights preserved. Bliss
did actually admit afterwards that he wasn’t entirely sure
as to which he preferred, so that at least was a tribute to
Campoli’s persistence and suggestive skill.
a perfect vehicle in any case for Campoli’s own special brand
of bel canto lyricism and virtuosity. One of the most
magical moments comes in the gorgeous passage for violin over
a harp and pizzicato string accompaniment in the first movement
– something Campoli and the composer-conductor negotiate with
wonderful warmth. It’s one moment among many. Campoli’s powerful
spicatti are flourished in the central movement, playing which
is warmly avuncular, and come the finale and we find him retaining
tonal body even in the more strenuous passages of the Andante
sostenuto pages. The Zingaro writing fits him perfectly;
verve and buoyancy drama abound. There is, incidentally,
a live Campoli-Bliss performance of the Concerto from 1968
which is more expansive all round.
Theme and Cadenza for solo violin and orchestra is an earlier
work and derives from incidental music Bliss wrote for a radio
play written by his wife, Trudy. Campoli had actually played
it in March 1949, though he had been beaten to it by two eminent
players in the shapes of Max Rostal and Henry Holst. Brief
though it is, it’s highly violinistic – as one might expect
given the provenance – and is suavely performed.
remainder of the programme delves back somewhat. The Paganini-Kreisler
was, I think, the first recording of the work since Kreisler’s
own with Ormandy. Naturally ‘Camp’ – splendid cantilena -
and Victor Olof give it with panache. There’s a semi-rarity
in the case of the Heifetz arranged Hummel, and a warmly textured
Debussy in the familiar Hartmann arrangement. One of Campoli’s
first recordings for Decca back in 1931 had been Bazzini’s
La Ronde des lutins. This isn’t it, being a 1947 remake
with steadfast Eric Gritton, but it is played with similarly
breezy insouciance though not at the claimed 2.58. Even Campoli
couldn’t get through it in that time; add a minute and you’re
there (this affects Beulah’s total timing for the disc, which
for once underestimates itself). Then there’s the cheeky Hubay
Zephyr to end things.
companies have issued some of these pieces. The Paganini-Kreisler
is on Dutton CDBP 9718 which is smoothness itself; this Beulah,
by comparison, is quite torrid with plenty of Decca ‘frying
tonight’ bacon fat sizzling away. My own copy of K1822-23
doesn’t sound quite this sizzly, but in any case I prefer
the Beulah. This also goes for Dutton’s transfer of the Bazzini.
Beulah is squishy but Dutton is airless; of the two on offer
I prefer squish, but you may not.
worthily re-ordered entrant to the Campoli lists then, which
have elsewhere been enriched in the area of chamber music
by the appearance of three previously unknown non-commercially
recorded sonatas. So, let me extend a hope that we will similarly
one day get the performances of Walton’s concerto that I know
have survived, and that those other big concertos he essayed
– including those by Elizalde, Delius, Bax, Harty and Sibelius
– are in a box somewhere awaiting restoration. Fabulous thought
for us Campolites!