Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K216 Strassburg (1775) [23:26] ¹
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.77 (1878) [40:31] ²
Gioconda De Vito (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham ¹
German Opera House Orchestra, Berlin/Paul van Kempen ²
rec. May 1949, EMI Abbey Road Studio No.1 (Mozart) and May 1941, Berlin (Brahms)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111349 [63:57]

We’re only very slowly reclaiming Gioconda De Vito’s recordings from the limbo in which many have languished. Back in the days of LP, EMI Angel (Japan) issued a capacious box that drew together her discography in handsome style [EAC 77350-60]. This ten LP box was necessarily restricted to her recordings for that company so whilst we got the Rudolf Schwarz directed Brahms Concerto we obviously didn’t get this wartime Berlin recording. The Beecham Mozart K216 however was there and so was the remake with Kubelik.

De Vito had a relatively small repertoire and one of the features of her preserved recordings is the number of competing versions of the Brahms. In addition to the two studio recordings, two of the more prominent live inscriptions are those with Fricsay, a RIAS tape (Audite 95585) and Furtwängler (Urania URN22207 is the most recent transfer that I’ve seen).

Her Brahms was a reading remarkable for its tonal and expressive independence of the more high-pressured Russian school performances. Her tone is not one of concentrated compression, principally because her vibrato was a touch too oscillatory at times. Hers was a more pellucid approach, but her phrasing offers utterly viable alternatives to other more incisive ways of looking at things. That’s especially true of the slow movement, where her sensitivity to supple shading complements the work of the orchestra’s principals. She was, incidentally, a fine chamber player, as her recordings demonstrate, and this aspect of her musicianship is vividly evident here. In short then her approach is serious-minded but not sombre, naturally flowing and full of fruitful honesty. There are a very few technical imperfections from the soloist but they’re inconsequential. I prefer van Kempen’s conducting to Schwarz’s, even if he is a little excitable at the start, because he generates greater tension than does the later recording.

The Mozart was recorded with Beecham and his new RPO. As a reading it has little of the seductive allure of, say, Thibaud, or the expressive generosity of Menuhin - whom she partnered, incidentally, on a number of chamber outings for EMI. It does have an unostentatious simplicity, broadly feminine in orientation. Beecham insists on a hefty bass line, and his soloist uses the Tovey cadenzas. There’s a cough at 1:50 in the slow movement - Beecham? - but otherwise things proceed with a straightforwardness not devoid of quiet subtlety.

I look forward to more Naxos restoration of her work; this one is thoroughly accomplished with excellent Obert-Thorn transfers and Tully Potter notes.

Jonathan Woolf