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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.82 [18:37]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 [27:03]
Károly GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.28 [33:54]
Bronisław Gimpel (violin)
South-West German Radio Orchestra/Hans Müller-Kray (Glazunov); Georg Solti (Mendelssohn); Orchestre Henri Pensis/Henri Pensis (Goldmark)
rec. October 1956, Villa Berg, Stuttgart (Glazunov); live, September 1957, Liederhalle, Stuttgart (Mendelssohn); live, December 1951, Cercle Municipal, Luxembourg (Goldmark)
MELOCLASSIC MC2020 [79:35]

On the evidence of the many recordings of Bronisław Gimpel that I’ve heard, it seems incomprehensible that today he’s largely forgotten. Many of those who are familiar with his art may not be aware that he was a multi-faceted musician, embracing the roles of soloist, concertmaster, chamber musician, teacher and conductor.

Born 1911, his first teacher was his father. At the age of eight he was enrolled at the Lwów Conservatory to study with Moritz Wolfstahl. He made his debut with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. At eleven it was onwards to the Vienna Conservatory where he was under the tutelage of Robert Pollack, who was Isaac Stern’s early teacher. Bronisław’s pianist brother Jakob also attended the conservatory at the time. At fourteen he played the Goldmark Concerto for the first time. Later, Gimpel spent about a year with Carl Flesch at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, yet never attained the acclaim of the pedagogue’s most famous pupils, who included Henryk Szeryng, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis and Ginette Neveu. Flesch advised him to get some orchestral experience, and Gimpel spent time working under Herman Scherchen in Königsberg and Otto Klemperer in Los Angeles.

After the war, he embarked on some heavy concertizing. Aside from this busy schedule, in 1963 he founded the Warsaw Quintet, which continued until 1967. From 1967 until 1973 he taught at the University of Connecticut, and it was there that he instituted the New England String Quartet. Other teaching posts included a spell in the 1970s as a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. He returned to his remaining family in Los Angeles in 1978 and died a year later aged only sixty-eight.

I’m grateful to Meloclassic, for the release of these radio/studio and live recordings, which bulk out Gimpel’s limited discography. The Goldmark and Glazunov Concertos were also recorded for Vox in the 1950s with the Southwest German Radio Orchestra, under Rolf Reinhardt. The former was issued on a twofer in 1996 (CDX2 5523), but the Glazunov unfortunately never made it onto CD. There’s a Mendelssohn Concerto issued on a Japanese Denon CD (licensed by Ariola-Eurodisc) from 1960 (COCQ-84276), in which the orchestra are the Bamberg Symphony, conducted by Johannes Schüler, very similar in conception to this live airing. The Warsaw Quintet can be heard in compelling performances of the Schumann and Zarebski Piano Quintets on a 3 CD set dedicated to the pianist Władysław Szpilman, issued by Sony in 2005 (82876728552).

Gimpel projects a big, opulent sound well-suited, especially, to the Glazunov and Goldmark Concertos. He possesses a commanding technique, and his interpretations of all three concertos are informed by intelligent musicianship. He played a 1730 Santo Serafin violin and an 1845 J.B. Vuillaume. His tone is rich and warm, and his vibrato varied and relaxed, displaying no vestige of tightness. All of these factors enable him to display a spectacular wealth of colour and tonal shadings. The Glazunov is a richly tinted canvas and Gimpel imbues it with sensuality and poetry. The slow movement is expressed with lush, rhapsodic intensity, and exquisitely phrased. The Goldmark Concerto stands comparison with the recorded versions by Nathan Milstein and Itzhak Perlman.

The opening movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto is passionate and flowing, with Solti providing pliant support. The slow movement is an intoxicating blend of heartfelt lyricism and graceful simplicity. The finale is fleet of foot and crisply articulated by the soloist.

Informative booklet notes are supplied courtesy of Peter Gimpel, son of Jakob Gimpel. A selection of black and white photographs is a pleasing addition.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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