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CD: Crotchet

Ultimate Campoli
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor Op.64 (1844) [26:25]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Scottish Fantasy Op. 46 (1880) [24:20]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Havanaise (1887) [9:45]
Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso (1887) [9:01]
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult, Anatole Fistoulari (Saint-Saëns)
rec. May 1958, Kingsway Hall, London; November 1953 (Saint-Saëns)
BEULAH 7PD10 [69:33]
Experience Classicsonline

‘Ultimate Campoli’. Ultimate Campoli? The first is the title of this disc. The second is my question. Can there be an ultimate Campoli disc, given that he recorded so much and also that Beulah is such a welcome proponent for his discs and his memory. If they’re suggesting that this coupling is the ne plus ultra of Campoli recordings, that’s a big punt. Best to look at it, I think, as a handy way of separating discs from their Campoli stable, the better to stand out in the marketplace.

["Ultimate" refers to the fact this is Beulah's last Campoli issue, according to the website. - Ed.]

Certainly the Mendelssohn was his signature dish. He played it hundreds of times, both with orchestra and with piano accompaniment in recitals, as was the norm in the early days of his classical career. He had earlier recorded it with van Beinum in 1949 (also on Beulah - see review), in a much admired reading on 78s, but this later one in 1958 ‘binaural’ was no less admired. Boult, that distinguished accompanist, was on hand. Campoli’s tone is deliciously sweet and he has typically interesting ideas in the passagework - especially in the first movement cadenza, which if you’re unfamiliar with his way with it, you should certainly hear. As ever the slow movement is the heart of things, with affectionate lyricism always to the fore. Perhaps the orchestra is a touch too recessed for a full and expansive engagement with the solo line but it doesn’t really matter. The finale is poised, fluent and fleet - but not flashily so.

The Scottish Fantasy was a work Campoli only recorded once, and he was better known - as everyone is, I suppose - in the G minor. Here the cymbals and harp are nicely audible but sometimes there’s a touch of swamping in the sound - notably the winds. Campoli is an expressive host, warmly moulding the ‘MacBruch’ tunes to delightful effect. The scherzo is played with pure panache and there are some lovely diminuendi in the Andante sostenuto. If it’s not as personalised and intense as Heifetz - and whose performance is? - it’s nevertheless a lovely souvenir of Campoli’s way in the central romantic repertoire. The virtuosic status is maintained in the two Saint-Saëns warhorses. These were recorded in 1953 with Fistoulari on hand. They get a rather over-bright recording but the playing has polish, freshness and they both suit the violinist’s extrovert temperament nicely. He was without doubt the most dashing British violinist of his generation, if we except the mercurial but restless Philip Newman.

Ultimate Campoli? Forget the persiflage. This is just damn good Campoli - a player of charm, personality, technical eloquence and hugely musical instincts. Now let’s get some of his broadcast performances out of the attic.

Jonathan Woolf  



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