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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012 [149:55]
Sonatas for cello and keyboard BWV 1027-1029 [42:54]
Concerto in G major, BWV592 (arr. M. Kelemen) [10:18]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Concerto in B flat major, G482 (arr. and re-orch. by F Grützmacher) [21:34]
Antonio Janigro (cello)
Robert Veyron-Lacroix (harpsichord)
I Solisti di Zagreb
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Milan Horvat (Boccherini)
rec. c.1954 Suites and c.1956 Sonatas; 1948 (Boccherini) and 1960 (Bach Concerto)
DOREMI DHR-8014-6 [3 CDs: 72:49 + 77:18 + 74:53]

Another opportunity comes around for me to discuss some of Antonio Janigro’s Bach recordings. A Forgotten Records [FR494/95] release (review) includes the same Bach sonata performances with Robert Veyron-Lacroix that Doremi presents in this 3 CD set. To recap, briefly, Janigro (1918-1989) diversified as a conductor, directing I Solisti di Zagreb, and recording for Vanguard, as well as being a fine cellist. His name is still remembered because he had a wide ranging career, partly also because of the longevity of some of his LP recordings and their reinstatement - some of them at least - on CD.
His recording of the Cello Suites is tentatively dated to c.1954. Whilst at the time Casals would still be strongly in one’s mind, other cellists were soon to make their mark on disc with the suites: Gendron, Starker, Fournier, Navarra, Shafran and Tortelier amongst a number. Starker and Fournier, indeed, recorded their performances between 1957 and 1960. Janigro plays with tonal warmth and constantly responsive vibrato, making a pretty big sound. Sarabandes are invariably taken very slowly, though if one listens to Fournier’s 1960 set, one will notice that it’s not merely a question of tempo - as Fournier is often just as slow as Janigro except in the case of a few of the Sarabande movements. The strong differences lie in matters of rhythmic underpinning, articulation speed and timbral variation.
Minuets can be quite heavy as well - the D minor’s examples are rather notably so. In the D major (No.6) he takes a very sedate tempo for the Allemande, whilst the Sarabande really crawls along. Once again it’s a case of the music ultimately lacking a sense of drama and drive. The C major is a cut above his curiously over-romanticised and indulgent recordings of Nos. 5 and 6. Its romanticism is better organised and whilst, even in contemporary terms, it still lacks any real terpsichorean imperative (and the Gigue is a bit dogged) it sounds altogether better. It’s not surprising to hear Janigro convert the Sarabande of No.4 in E flat major into a molto adagio effusion, the trill sounding commensurately sluggish. 

When we turn to the Sonatas we meet Veyron-Lacroix (1922-1991) who was a distinguished musician too. As a harpsichordist he was primarily a soloist and chamber musician, and as a recording artist it’s the work of early music for which he will be best remembered. Assiduous collectors however will know that he didn’t ignore Poulenc, and he often performed Milhaud and Françaix amongst others of his contemporaries. Others will know of his long-time collaboration in concert and on disc with Jean-Pierre Rampal. Veyron-Lacroix also re-recorded these Bach viola da gamba - or more commonly these days on disc cello - sonatas, with Tortelier. 

Janigro’s warmly vibrated playing is matched by Veyron-Lacroix’s often very bright registrations to produce sympathetic, legato-conscious performances. Fast movements aren’t overstressed, and whilst slow ones are relaxed they’re not at all supine. One can admire Janigro’s richly broad tone, and its associated use of portamenti and other inflective devices, all of which keep the ear keenly waiting. He can ensure that the tonal reserves he employs do turn lean and focused too, as in the Allegro ma on tanto of the First Sonata, though he could perhaps have lightened that tone and played with more terpsichorean vitality in something like the Andante of the Second sonata; it matters slightly less here than it does in the solo works. Sometimes Janigro’s kind of romantic playing can sound rather unrelieved. Both play the delicious passage in the allegro finale of the Second sonata very well; especially where the cello supports the harpsichord with off-beat pizzicati, like a jazz bassist.

There are bonuses of a sort, too. Janigro performs the Concerto in G major fashioned by M. Kelemen, in which Janigro is accompanied by his own group I Solisti di Zagreb. The result, whilst not really plausible, and standing as a romanticist conceit, is nevertheless good to hear. Finally, the cellist can be heard in a historic performance live at the 1948 Prague Spring Festival. The concerto was the Boccherini-Grützmacher confection, and Milan Horvat conducts the Prague Symphony. The sound is a bit constricted in the same way that almost all broadcast survivors from Prague Spring performances were - note this is true of Příhoda and Navarra recordings at later events. Doremi doesn’t give a specific date in 1948 for this performance but fortunately the Festival has been well documented and a splendid chronicle of the Prague Spring events discloses the date: 20 May. The other composers represented that day were Jarvonić, Roussel and šulek.
Doremi’s transfer of the sonatas is far more forward than the more recessed Forgotten Records disc. Admirers of the cellist should welcome this extensive release and look forward to the other volumes in the series.
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Bach cello suites