Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 32 in B flat major K454 [21:37]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 34 in A major K526 [19:16]
Frederick Grinke (violin)
Kendall Taylor (piano)
rec. 1953, Decca West Hampstead Studios, London
The violinist Frederick Grinke (1911-1987) has not exactly been over-represented in the CD catalogue. Dutton have released a handful of CDs of the violinist in English repertoire such as Ireland, Rubbra and Vaughan Williams, an area in which the violinist had a particular interest. Yet he also made recordings of composers as diverse as Bach and Bartók, Rachmaninov and Smetana, amongst others. Forgotten Records here redresses the balance, with two violin and piano sonatas by Mozart, recorded by Decca in 1953. His collaborator is Kendall Taylor (1905-1999), who for many years taught at the Royal College of Music and was an ardent stalwart of the BBC Proms between 1925 and 1959. Despite Grinke’s advocacy of British music - Vaughan Williams composed his Violin Sonata for him - it is pleasing to hear him in the Viennese classics.
Grinke was Canadian but lived a great portion of his life in the UK. He was born in Winnipeg in 1911. He could boast good credentials, counting both Adolf Busch and Carl Flesch amongst his teachers. He later forged a three-pronged career as soloist, chamber musician and teacher. In 1937 he assumed the mantle of concertmaster of the Boyd Neel Orchestra, a post he later left to pursue a solo career. In 1939 he began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, and during 1963-66 taught at the Menuhin School. He died in Ipswich, UK in 1987.
What of the performances themselves? Well, these Mozart Sonatas are played with elegance and charm. I am enamoured of the sheer warmth and commitment of their artistry. Grinke’s bowing projects a smoothness and purity of tone very much akin to other Flesch pupils. His vibrato generates a rich, rounded tone, though perhaps he doesn’t project quite the wide range of colour as some. Intonation is immaculate. Expressive slides and position changes are not part of Grinke’s violinistic arsenal, and his playing is very modern-sounding. Phrasing and dynamic range are well-matched between violinist and pianist. It has to be remembered that Grinke and Taylor were regular partners. Indeed the pianist formed a piano trio with Grinke and the cellist Florence Hooton, which took the violinist’s name.
On the downside, however, the engineers of the time failed to achieve an ideal balance between the two instruments. The piano ends up sounding slightly recessed. The CD has been digitally re-mastered from an excellent, clean copy of a Decca LP (LXT 2802, LL 739). With no notes, Internet links are provided for further reference.
This release is a must for violin buffs like myself, who wish to hear Grinke in his prime.
Stephen Greenbank