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CD: Orchestral Concert CDs

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for piano and violin No. 35 in A, K526 (1787) [22:26]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 (1801/02) [24:53]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [22:28]
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
Peter Katin (piano)
rec. live Fairfield Hall, Croydon, c.1972; at Campoli’s Southgate home, c.1973 (Brahms)
Experience Classicsonline

In the days when the BBC often rebroadcast historic material from its archives we could hope to catch recitals from stalwarts of the airwaves from at least the 1960s and 70s. Now, those days long gone, and with its own label and an eye for international sales, figures such as Campoli tend to be overlooked. Yet I remember, indeed taped, a fine 1970 Campoli broadcast with Valerie Tryon of sonatas by Debussy, Respighi and Turina No.2 when it was re-aired a number of years ago. Doubtless there will be numerous other preserved recitals in the archives but it’s not easy to see how they will ever be accessed, much less made commercially available.

Which makes a new disc such as this all the more welcome. Make no mistake; Campoli was a significant violinist, a bel canto lyricist with a big tone and hugely expressive intentions. His command in the big concertos was unquestioned - Mendelssohn, Bruch, Elgar - and he sought out contemporary or near-contemporary material if it suited him, such as the concertos of Bliss and Moeran. But there are gaps in his discography and thankfully this release consists of entirely discography-filling material, none having been recorded commercially. All see him paired with Peter Katin, with whom he had earlier formed a sonata duo.

There are two locations. The first was a recital given at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon in c.1972 and consisted of the sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven. The recorded sound is excellent. Mozart’s sonata in A K526, is a study in bold, communicative warmth and strong romantic gestures. Lyric lines are elastic but not over extended, accents are strong but not tart, and tonal reserves are plumbed deeply. The Beethoven sonata offers a powerfully manoeuvred opening movement and a typically limpid and reverent Andante cantabile. Tone colours are bronzed and Campoli unravels the line like an aria. Sinewy exchanges pursue the scherzo, alternating with light wit before the attaca of the finale where Campoli stalks forth with panache. Katin was a generation younger than Campoli - nearly twenty five years younger in fact. He is of course better known as a concerto soloist and recitalist and very much less so as a duo partner. But he is a poised and communicative collaborator, rhythmically alert and sensitive, weighting his sound with great discretion. Their teaming works extremely well.

For the Brahms Op.108 sonata we turn to a performance recorded in the violinist’s home by Geoffrey Terry, whose company is behind the release. Of course the sound doesn’t - and it could hardly be expected to - match the excellent ‘recital’ perspective achieved in Croydon. It’s invariably shallower and boxier but to hear Campoli and Katin in this work is recompense enough. Digital slips are very few and whilst the full panoply of Campoli’s tone resists capture we can learn some important things about his approach to this work. Tempi are broadly conventional but with a characteristically slow Adagio, which I admit I was expecting. Here his vibrato widens dramatically and he vests his playing with a grieving intensity and sentiment. It’s playing far removed from that of, say, Szigeti, Suk or Shumsky in this repertoire but then their imperatives were different. Katin plays with sympathetic attention to detail and if he would prefer a faster tempo he doesn’t reveal his hand to us. There’s a perky but not aggressive scherzo and a strong, tensile finale.

A warm welcome therefore to this disc, which offers considerable rarity value to the violin aficionado.

Jonathan Woolf 



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