Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 [41:42]
Serenade No.2 in A, Op.16 [36:31]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Sinfonia of London/Anthony Collins (Op.77)
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Carlo Zecchi (Op. 16)
rec. November 1958, Hammersmith Town Hall, London (Op. 77); 14 May 1954, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (op. 16)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1090 [78:16]
The Hungarian violinist Endre Wolf (1913-2011) was born in Budapest, and studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with Jenö Hubay and Leo Weiner. He became leader of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden from 1936 until 1946, and for the duration of the war gave solo and string-quartet performances throughout neutral Sweden. After the war he emigrated to England and, between 1954 and 1964, was a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Around this time he frequently appeared in the Henry Wood Promenade concerts in London. After leaving Manchester, Wolf held teaching positions at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Lund University and the Swedish Radio music school, near Stockholm. He maintained his career until well into his eighties.
Anthony Collins sets a broad tempo in the first movement of the Brahms Concerto, but never lets the momentum sag. He gradually builds up the tension in the opening tutti in anticipation of the soloist’s entry. It’s a dramatic opening movement, with the violinist allowed to shine in the more lyrical sections. Wolf’s rich, full-bodied and virile tone is ideally suited to this work, and his warm, relaxed approach is on very different lines to say Heifetz’s traversal. He has a big technique, as is demonstrated in the Joachim cadenza, which he dispatches with élan. The Adagio receives a tranquil and radiant reading, with Wolf deliciously phrasing the long melodic lines. Rubato is judiciously applied, and intonation is pristine. The gypsy dance finale pulls a rhythmic punch, with high-octane playing from all concerned.
I have been familiar with this 1958 Brahms Concerto for some time via a World Record Club LP, and am thrilled that Forgotten Records have issued it on CD. They have used both the World Record Club LP and a Columbia Musical Treasures LP, achieving superb re-masterings. This release has added significance as it is one of only two 'albums' available featuring Endre Wolf’s playing. Several years ago Danacord brought out a 2-CD set entitled ‘The Great Violinist Endre Wolf: The complete Danish Tono recordings 1949-51’ (DACOCD 714-715), which I would also heartily recommend.
Carlo Zecchi’s 1954 recording of Brahms’ Serenade No.2 in A, Op.16 is a delightful and affectionate account. A reading that is both idiomatic and stylish, Zecchi savours the generous lyricism the work has to offer. It is unusual in that the composer scored it for woodwinds, horns, violas, cellos and double basses only, with the violins completely left out. Zecchi responds accordingly, with prominence given to the woodwinds, maintaining an effective balance of instrumental timbres throughout. This is a performance which truly brings the music to life. The transfers are taken from good copies of Philips and Epic LPs.
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf