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The Great Violinist Endre Wolf: The complete Danish Tono recordings 1949-51
Track listing below review
rec. 1949-51
DANACORD DACOCD 714-715 [76:56 + 79:07]

Experience Classicsonline

The Hungarian-born violinist Endre Wolf (1913-2011) was a pupil of Hubay in Budapest. In 1936 he became leader of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, resigning a decade later to begin his career as soloist and recitalist, often with his wife Antoinette, and also with his Wolf quartet. British music-lovers came across him due to his association with the Hallé Orchestra and its conductor John Barbirolli when Wolf was, for a number of years, a Professor at the Royal Northern College of Music. He was also a noted pedagogue in his adopted country of Sweden.
There was a period of a decade, between 1954 and 1963, when it seemed that no Proms season was complete without Endre Wolf and André Navarra (Endre and André) giving the public their Brahms Double Concerto – though ironically when Barbirolli recorded it, it was Alfredo Campoli who joined Navarra. To check on the view that Wolf was exclusively associated with JB, I looked at the Proms playlists and found that, in fact, he also performed with Basil Cameron and John Pritchard and no, it wasn’t just the Double – he also played the concertos by Beethoven and Mendelssohn and the Brahms Violin Concerto.
This two-disc set presents for the first time the entirety of Wolf’s recordings for the Danish label Tono. This company’s violin discs were dominated by two émigré Hungarian fiddlers – Wolf and Emil Telmányi - to whom the repertoire was parcelled out. Telmányi was famous for Sibelius, Nielsen and Bach, also Brahms. Wolf was given more central and Romantic repertoire. Thus we hear his Tchaikovsky and Bruch concertos, and the two most famous Beethoven sonatas.
His Tchaikovsky (1949) is fast, though bowed with such security that it doesn’t seem unduly rushed, notwithstanding a cut finale. There are no particular idiosyncrasies, his trills in the slow movement are pellucid, his legato excellent and the dynamic shaping (especially diminuendos) equally accomplished. I think, though, that even generous auditors would carp at a finale of this work lasting barely just over six minutes. Also there sounds like a slightly jarring side join – this was a 78 set – at 4:23 in the first movement: it sounds a bit tentative and, as it’s on an open violin note seems a strange place to have a turn over. The efficient conductor is Thomas Jensen.
Mozart’s A major Concerto was self-directed, and I think it would have been better to employ someone like Jensen or Tuxen. There are a few imprecisions and a little violin slip in the finale – possibly (I’m surmising) because Wolf turned around immediately to direct a tutti passage. There’s also a bit of a lurch in the playing at around six minutes into the slow movement, possibly as a result of a side change. Still, the playing is robust and confident and some fine ‘pathetic’ phrasing from Wolf illuminates the central movement, and some brisk portamenti similarly in the finale. Wolf was, by and large, quite a ‘clean’ player and doesn’t seem to have developed the dreaded nagging Hubay vibrato.
Bruch’s G minor Concerto, recorded in 1949, is kept on a good, tight rein, and played with sweetness and purity and considerable charm. Once again he is astute at dynamic variance and at resisting ear-catching but ultimately gauche finger position changes. His conductor is the excellent Tuxen. He joins with his first wife Antoinette for the Spring and Kreutzer sonatas. They take slow tempi for the first two movements of the Spring, though Oistrakh and Milstein did too, but the last two are up to tempo. It’s a relaxed performance, strong on ensemble quality. The Kreutzer is much more up to tempo all round but is quite small-scale with a fast and very leanly phrased variations second movement. I have to say I found it rather breathless and a touch superficial.
There are some extra smaller pieces. His nimble Flight of the Bumble Bee can’t survive comparison with Milstein (few can) but his Aulin Humoreske is a real charmer and he digs into Szigeti’s arrangement of Bartók’s Hungarian Folk-Tunes with much of the gusto you’d expect. There’s also a rare example of his Bach – a single movement, the Sarabande, from the Partita in D minor.
One of Wolf’s best known recordings was the Brahms Concerto with the Sinfonia of London and Anthony Collins – a World Record Club LP - though he’d earlier recorded it with Walter Goehr for Music Appreciation Records. If you want to discover more about him these Tono transfers are just the thing. I assume all are taken from commercial copies and there’s some chuffing and small damage along the way, none of which is especially important.
Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
CD 1
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.35 [29:55]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto in A major K219 [29:16]
Copenhagen Chamber Orchestra/Endre Wolf
Nicolň PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Caprice Op.1 No.5 arr. R. Maciewski [2:47]
Tor AULIN (1866-1914)
Humoreske [2:57]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Hungarian Folk-Tunes arr. Szigeti [8:29]
Antoinette Wolf (piano)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita in D minor – Sarabande [2:54]

CD 2
Max BRUCH (1838-1929)
Violin Concerto in G minor Op.26 [23:43]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.5 in F major Op.24 Spring [23:48]
Violin Sonata No.9 in A major Op.47 Kreutzer [29:48]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumble Bee [1:22]










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