Admirers of Johanna Martzy will known that Coup d’archet, a
boutique label largely devoted to perpetuating her recordings
in lavish editions, has released a swathe of them on 180 gram
LPs. If your income is sufficient to meet the requested price,
and if they haven’t already sold out (a number have) then you
will be the proud possessor of some truly marvellous performances.
Her performing career was regrettably truncated. First Walter
Legge lost interest in her — either because he had bigger fish
on his books or because she rejected his amatory approaches,
as had Kathleen Ferrier before her. Whatever the reason, her
career which had begun so promisingly, rather trailed off and
she was soon to succumb to cancer in her 50s.
What remains is something special. Her Mozart with Jochum was
recorded in 1952 and preserves a reading of eager projection.
Her playing is well proportioned, the first movement cadenza
enjoyed with relish. There is nobility and pathos in the second
movement where she abjures opportunities to deepen her vibrato
and thicken her tone, à la Russe, instead concentrating on congruent
expressive responses — no over emoting on the lower strings,
therefore. The finale is sensibly phrasing and the rapport with
Jochum is excellent throughout, both musicians finding some
operatic wit and aerial grace to enliven this Rondo.
There then follow, from the same year, two sonatas with her
regular sonata partner, Jean Antonietti. The first is more Mozart,
his G major, K376, Once again her Mozartian credentials are
outstanding: rhythmically buoyant, with her tone centring more
in the Andante and just the right sense of grazioso
in the finale. I’d have preferred brighter piano tone, but otherwise
things are fine. The Beethoven Sonata is Op.30 No.3. Her trills
are urgent, and the piano sounds better. Tonally things are
beyond reproach and this is another excellent reading, with
especially delightful exchanges in the Minuet. The
only real criticism concerns the finale, which could be lighter
on its feet.
There has been a Japanese TOCE CD set devoted to Martzy but
otherwise we are in a difficult position as regards her studio
recordings and indeed those live broadcasts that have emerged.
Every scrap of Martzy is valuable, and I do hope that, in addition
to Coup d’archet’s work — a biography has long been promised,
as well — and that of Testament and Doremi, the full body of
her recorded legacy will be made available to those who admire
great violin playing. This finely transferred Forgotten Records
disc is an excellent step in that direction — without notes,
but displaying discrimination and astute judgement in its selection