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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata for Piano and Violin in D major, op.12/1 [17:58]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, op.78 [25:31]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Divertimento [19:48]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor [12:11]
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
Istvan Hajdu (piano)
rec. Mozarteum, Salzburg, 27 July 1961
ORFEO C912151B [75:28]

Arthur Grumiaux was one of those aristocratic violinists – along with Nathan Milstein and Mischa Elman – whose sound was as much an identifying factor as their effortless technique. His was a cultured sound that transcended the virtuosity that came to him so easily, but as this 1961 recital so readily captures it brought with it some problems. Not of intonation, which was flawless, nor of musicality, which in his case was often sublime, but of an occasional aloofness and seriousness that made some music seem dry, even witless, when it should sparkle with humour. Grumiaux was a violinist of extraordinary humanity but little human touch on the evidence of this recital. In parts of it, he sounds cloaked in a veil of mourning.

He was, it should be said, at his very best in recital when being partnered by Clara Haskil, a pianist of exquisite taste who brought out the very best in Grumiaux’s own playing. She had died six months before this recital took place - which might well explain the rather heavy atmosphere that hangs over parts of this recital - and as fine as Istvan Hajdu is I find the two musicians' partnership to be a little tentative. There are signs of majestic interplay between the players in the Adagio of the magnificent Brahms Sonata, but the lyricism isn’t entirely spontaneous. Grumiaux’s phrasing is long, but Hajdu sounds 'clipped' at the keyboard. This style of pianism is indeed better suited to Beethoven’s early sonata where the concise rhythms sound more in focus but even here the violin is just made to sound that much richer of tone than Beethoven intended. It’s all rather grave to my ears.

Debussy’s Violin Sonata is a work in which the violin and the piano are in conflict with each other, where sonorities are challenging for space and where the momentum is in a state of flux, where indeed the instruments barely seem to accompany one another in the conventional sense of a violin sonata. Probably for these reasons the performance is almost an unqualified success. Stravinsky’s Divertimento, based on his ballet The Fairy’s Kiss, I’m afraid I found to be leaden. It is lacking in brilliance or wit and is rather uninspired. Humorous or witty it most certainly isn’t.

Not a record to show a great artist at his best.

Marc Bridle



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