RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Legendary Violinists in Germany - 1938-44
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Caprice No.13 in B flat major, Op.1, MS25 (1801-07) arr. Kreisler [3:11]
Gioconda de Vito (violin) Gustav Beck (piano), rec. live, February 1938, Leipzig
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.2 in D minor; Chaconne, BWV 1004 (1720) [14:25]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op.20 [8:40]
Johann MATTHESON (1681-1764)
Keyboard Suite No.5 in C; Aria, arr. W Burmester [2:25]
Ruggiero Ricci (violin) Waldemar von Vultée (piano), rec. live, November 1938, Berlin
Giuseppe SAMMARTINI (1695-1750)
Canto Amoroso [3:07]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Violin Sonata Op.5 No.12 in D minor, La Folia (1700) [7:25]
Lilia d’Albore (violin) Heinrich Graf Wesdehlen (piano), rec. live, February 1942, Berlin Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Violin Sonata in B minor, Op.2 No.4 (1745) [11:23]
Lilia d’Albore (violin) Hans Priegnitz (piano), rec. 1944, Leipzig
Francesco VERACINI (1690-1768)
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Rondo brillante [2:15]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Jota Navarra, Op.22 (1878-82) [4:33]
Tibor von Bisztricky (violin) Erhard Michel (piano), rec. live, November 1942, Berlin
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Morgen, Op.27 No.4 (1894) [3:27]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Canciones populares españolas: Jota (1914-15) arr. Paul Kochanski [3:26]
Nejiko Suwa (violin) Michael Raucheisen (piano) and Michi Tanaka (soprano: Strauss), rec. live, 1943-44, Berlin
MELOCLASSIC MC2018 [68:24]
All the recordings here were made for German radio companies between 1938 and 1944. A host of thoughts immediately appear, but let’s just confine things to the performances for the moment. There are five violinists featured: Gioconda de Vito, Ruggiero Ricci, Lilia d’Albore, Tibor von Bisztricky, and Nejiko Suwa. Of this quintet Ricci’s name will be the most familiar, followed by de Vito. Some may recall d’Albore’s 78s, and Suwa never recorded as a solo artist, so far as I know. Von Bistricky was not a big name, though he was a fine teacher and made a few LPs, notably for DG and Electrola, in the 1950s.
What a fascinating collection this is and how resonant of time and place. De Vito’s performance of the Paganini Caprice is the disc that, unfortunately, has not survived in great shape. There’s rumble and some distortion. In any case, de Vito tends to be a bit simpering. Gustav Beck is the pianist. The trio of Ricci performances (Berlin, November 1938) coincide with some of his earliest recordings. Both the Sarasate (first class) and the little Mattheson Aria in the Willy Burmester arrangement come from those sessions, so he is sensibly performing repertoire with which he is already familiar, and may be doing some flag-waving for the 78s too. The pianist has changed, though – not, as in the studio, Fürstner, but Waldemar von Vultée. There’s also the Bach Chaconne to consider and that’s no small matter. I understand that a fragment of an earlier Ricci Chaconne performance has been preserved and released on One-Eleven, but I assume that this 1938 recording is the earliest extant example of a complete Bach performance from Ricci, if we allow the Chaconne to be extracted from its Partita. Like the other two examples, it’s heard in really excellent sound. Ricci’s tonal qualities are fully to be heard and the playing is well shaped, unsentimental, forward-looking, and as yet perhaps lacking something in expressive force.
Lilia d’Abore (1911-88) performed a lot of early music. Italian by birth she recorded with Hubert Giesen and Géza Frid for Polydor on 78s and after the war gravitated to ensemble playing. She played in the Trio di Roma and was also a member of Complesso di solisti Antonio Vivaldi. In her time she played under conductors as notable as Furtwängler, Schuricht and Abendroth, but her career trained off in the 1960s. She plays early Italian music with the sonorously named Heinrich Graf Wesdehlen in Berlin in 1942 and with the better-remembered Hans Priegnitz in Leipzig in 1944. She has an insistent, bright, forward tone that is rather lacking in light and shade. I’m not sure if the quality of the radio broadcast accounts for it but the tone, to me, sounds all top and no bottom. She’s close to the microphone, as one can even hear her sniffs in the Leipzig performance of the Tartini Sonata. Her double-stopping is smooth and precise, she extracts pathos from the slow movement, and shows good style in this repertoire. Despite recording Brahms’ Third Sonata with Frid – her major recording – baroque repertoire was her metier.
The Hungarian Tibor von Bisztricky (1908-83) prefaces his recital in November 1942 in Berlin with Veracini’s evergreen Largo – so wonderfully recorded some years before by Szigeti. The sound here is less good than the d’Albore recordings and Erhard Michel’s piano sounds especially watery. He recorded no Paganini or Sarasate so it’s good to hear him in unbridled form in both composer’s music, though the restricted sounds somewhat lessens pleasure. Finally there is Nejiko Suwa (1920-2012), the long-lived Japanese violinist who studied first in Tokyo, and then in Paris. She performed widely in Germany during the war, before being captured in the Austrian Alps with the entire Japanese diplomatic mission. She provides a violin obbligato to the not-very-good Japanese soprano Michi Tanaka in Strauss’s Morgen under the dispassionately watchful eye of master accompanist Michael Raucheisen, who then accompanies Suwa in Falla.
It completes a fascinating slice of violin recordings of exceptional rarity value, all being made available, so far as I can tell, for the first time. The digipack comes with biographical paragraphs on the violinists. Where these radio recordings have been all these years, and the process by which they have been made available now, are things I’d very much like to know. In the meantime Meloclassic is doing me out of superlatives.