János Starker’s 1950 Kodály recordings for Period come from almost the very start of his illustrious career in the studios, and it’s fortunate that they have not been forgotten. Like many another bargain-basement outfit of the time, Period’s recording quality control proved to be somewhat rough and ready, but the results are in no way difficult to listen to. Licensing agreements ensured that they received a degree of coverage; the Op.4 Sonata for example also appeared on Program and Club Mondiale du Disque, whilst the Duo and the Sonata for solo cello – the first of the four studio inscriptions Starker left – also appeared on Nixa and Saga. These early inscriptions have also not been ignored in the welter of reissued material from the early 1950s. Philips took a punt utilising its No-Noise technology – not a success, as many will recall – on 422 302, and restored the same three works as on the recording under review. That was a quarter of a century ago now, and it was high time for a sensitive restoration to bring them back into circulation. Though one can obviously hear some high-end rumble, and the like, these are most sympathetically engineered examples of Forgotten Records’ work. I’ve invariably found them excellent in that respect and this disc is no exception.
There are no real differences interpretatively between this 1950 Solo Sonata, Op.8 and the much better-known and oft-reissued one made for EMI in 1957. Tempi are almost exactly identical, and timings therefore too. The Period recording preserves a somewhat gruffer, darker sound, far less subtly recorded but full of immediacy. It’s almost tactile. Starker and Otto Herz form a formidable team for the Cello Sonata, Op.4. From the declamatory Fantasia onwards this is a reading that marries ‘serioso’ and ‘spirito’ and shows the underrated Herz to have been something of a natural in this repertory. Again the sound quality is somewhat basic, but I wouldn’t want to suggest endemic problems; it’s more than serviceable for the time. That’s also the case with the Duo, Op.7 where the cellist is joined by violinist Arnold Eidus (1923-2013), first American winner of the Thibaud Violin Competition, in 1947. Little-known these days except, I suspect, by violin aficionados he had a rewarding career in the studios as a session player in New York. HMV in London clearly had him in mind because he recorded a 78 with Gerald Moore, but nothing much followed from it. He had a quartet with George Ricci, Ruggiero’s brother, and they recorded for their own label, Stradivari. Eidus also recorded for Period. The only concerto recording I’m aware of is the Sibelius, taped in Vienna. He was a formidably equipped player, as this Duo shows, in no way overpowered by the tensile strength of Starker. They are particularly good in the finale where Eidus’ fol
kloric insinuations are ripely supported by Starker’s cello drone.
There are no notes but there are internet links. This is a fine restoration.