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Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.82 (1904) [18:37]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 (1844) [27:03]
Károly GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.28 (publ. 1877) [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); September 1957, Liederhalle, Stuttgart (Mendelssohn); December 1951, Cercle Municipal, Luxembourg (Goldmark)
MELOCLASSIC MC2020 [79:35]

The compelling art of Bronisław Gimpel has only ever occupied a peripheral place in the discography. Vox issued discs he made in the 1950s, and sub-labels such as Panthéon, Marble Arch and Eurodisc followed suit in distributing the relatively few concerto discs he made in Europe, but his reputation has largely been limited to those ‘in the know’. A recent superb three-disc set of live recordings on Audite augmented the Vox box, though in the welter of broadcast material now being made available it seems unlikely that it will much alter things. That’s a shame as Gimpel was a truly magnetic performer, a romanticist who played with white-hot passion but considerable stylistic taste.

The three concertos on this disc are part of his established discography, though the Mendelssohn was always the most tricky to come across, the Glazunov and Goldmark being part of his Vox legacy. It’s a work that immediately reveals both the sweetness of his tone and also the huskiness of his lower strings, as well as the palette of colours he was able to draw on throughout the range. This is Mendelssohn playing of vitality, virtuosity, and colourful warmth. Abetted to no small degree by Solti’s sympathetic accompaniment – there are some especially well brought-out counter-themes in the slow movement – Gimpel embraces refinement as well as intensity and in the finale, taken with elastic rubatos, he flattens very slightly for expressive reasons, and reveals some high-octane bowing, full of panache, and richly emotive finger position changes.

If Milstein established the standard for purity and patrician intensity in the Glazunov, Gimpel is every inch the romantic exponent. And if Hans Müller-Kray doesn’t quite establish the initial tempo as decisively as Steinberg in Pittsburgh for Milstein, it’s perhaps part of a more flexible approach to metrics from Gimpel. His ardent espressivo in cantilena is beautiful to hear, his playing of the cadenza full of vocalised richness, and his command compelling. Articulation in the finale is pin-point, and so too intonation. And without being a wantonly theatrical performer – he draws the ear in rather than showing off – he proves to be a virtuoso and interpreter here of the front rank. In his later Vox recording of the Goldmark he, or more likely the company, insisted on cuts, presumably to keep the disc to manageable LP proportions. In this live performance there are no such pressures, thankfully. Once again the repertoire points to Milstein, who also left behind a much admired recording. What can one say about Gimpel, other than he plays with technical precision, emotive ardour, irresistible tone, one or two Heifetz position changes, control of dynamics – very soft playing too – and rapt bravura. The cadenza in the finale is particularly magnificent.

There are fine notes by Peter Gimpel and excellent photographs drawn from the Jakob and Bronislaw Gimpel Archive. Restorations are first class.

Gimpel was one of the most brilliant and communicative violinists of his generation. Whatever chain of circumstances denied him a true international reputation is of less significance now. His legacy should be celebrated and this disc does that handsomely.

Jonathan Woolf



 

 




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