Subtitled ‘A treasury of studio recordings, 1931-35’
this 3 CD set is priced as two. Not only that, but it has been
cannily selected to entice those yet to experience Zino Francescatti’s
art as well as those for whom some gap-filling is the order
of the day.
Almost everything here is a major chamber or concerto statement.
Chausson’s Concert was recorded in 1954 with Robert Casadesus
and the Guilet Quartet. As might have been predicted, it proves
a technically cleaner and more precisely calibrated reading
than the more heated, almost contemporaneous account by Louis
Kaufman, Artur Balsam and the Pascal Quartet, currently to be
found on Forgotten Records. Francescatti is not as spotlit as
Kaufman, nor are his expressive responses as obviously wide.
There’s lovely lissom phrasing in the Sicilienne
and a well judged Grave. Violinist and pianist, long
standing colleagues, join forces for a perfectly timed Debussy
Sonata. Like the very greatest Franco-Belgian teams, Thibaud
and Cortot, and Dubois and Maas, their tempi are very similar,
arguing for a continuity of phrasing and an immediacy of projection.
The tempo chosen, in all three cases, is fleet but never rushed.
This was recorded in 1946, but the Ravel Sonata dates from 1955
in which Francescatti is joined by Balsam. The reading is suave,
elegant, cosmopolitan in the Blues movement, and brilliantly
articulated in the finale.
The second disc gives us both Fauré sonatas from September
1953. Hardly anyone at the time recorded No.2 which was recorded
the day before the more popular work. He plays it with great
concentration and assurance, ensuring that the central movement
is flooded with serious lyricism. The A major is in the very
best French traditions, though less effusively phrased than
in the 78 set by his older compatriot Thibaud. A substantial
concerto rounds out this second disc, Vieuxtemps’ Fourth
in D minor with the luxurious casting of the Philadelphia Orchestra
under their ex-fiddle playing conductor, Eugene Ormandy. This
is meat and drink to the Frenchman, whose dashing instincts
are roused into formidable virtuosity. Bel canto line is engaged
in the slow movement, an Adagio religioso of warmth but
not over-perfumed breadth. Few have caught the elegant swagger
of the finale better than he.
The final disc presents his Symphonie espagnole with
an anonymous Paris studio band directed by André Cluytens
in November 1946. True, the Intermezzo has been excised,
as was often the case, most prominently from Russian players,
but the playing itself is outstanding in conception and execution.
True, again, it’s not as definably French in sound and
ethos as the earlier 1932 recording of Henry Merckel [Music
& Arts CD-1178] but there are some lovely and alluring slides
in the Rondo finale to ravish the ear. The 1947 Franck
Sonata with Casadesus negotiates the pathway between patrician
and emotive phrasing very well. It’s back to 1931 for
the Ravel Tzigane with Maurice Faure, to whose
surname M&A mistakenly gives an accent on the back of the
packaging; they get it right inside the booklet. This was chosen
in preference to the later recording with Balsam and shows the
younger Francescatti on ripe form, albeit in a chilly Paris
studio. Balsam reappears for Kaddish, Pièce
en forme de Habanera and the Berceuse sur le Nom de Fauré.
The set ends with two sweetmeats from Debussy in 1946 performances
with pianist Max Lanner.
A revision of the long essay that Henry Roth wrote on the violinist
is reprinted, along with the violinist’s discography which
makes for satisfying reading. Excellent transfers complete a
fine contribution to the art of Francescatti on disc.
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Concert in D major for Violin, Piano and String Quartet Op.
21 (1889-91) [37:25]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonata for violin and piano in G minor, L 140 (1917) [11:33]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata (1923-27) [17:16]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A major Op.13 (1875-77) [22:47]
Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor Op.108 (1916-17) [21:20]
Henry VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Violin Concerto No.4 in d minor, Op.31 (1850) [28:53]
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 24 (1874) [26:53]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata (1886) [26:56]
Tzigane: Rapsodie de concert for violin and piano (1924) [8:50]
Pièce en forme de Habanera (1907) [2:53]
Deux Mélodies Hébraïques Kaddish for
violin and piano (1914) [4:53]
Berceuse sur le Nom de Fauré (1922) [2:16]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La fille aux cheveux de lin - transcribed Arthur Hartmann in
Minstrels, from Preludes Book 1 (arr. Hartmann) [2:07]