Zino Francescatti - A treasury of studio recordings
see end of review for track listing
Zino Francescatti (violin): Robert Casadesus (piano) except
Maurice Faure (piano) (Ravel, Tzigane)
Guilet String Quartet (Chausson)
Artur Balsam (piano) (Ravel pieces)
Max Lanner (Debussy, La fille and Minstrels)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy (Vieuxtemps)
Le Grand Orchestre Symphoniques/André Cluytens (Lalo)
rec. 1931-35
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1260 [3 CDs: 75:42 + 72:58 + 77:12]
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.
Jonathan Woolf 

Excellent transfers complete a fine contribution to the art of Francescatti on disc. 

Track listing
CD 1
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]
CD 2
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]
CD 3
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 1910 [2:17]
Minstrels, from Preludes Book 1 (arr. Hartmann) [2:07]