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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Felix Salmond (cello) - Volume 2
Leonid Hambro, Simeon Rumschisky (piano)
rec. 1927-1948

It’s always flattering for a critic of whatever stripe to see a suggestion adopted. In my review of the first volume in this series at the end of last year I noted that it would be good to have a transfer of Felix Salmond’s Beethoven sonata recital recorded with Leonid Hambro, in 1948 and issued on a private LP in 1960. Well, here it is.

That LP was released to generate funds to set up a scholarship in Salmond’s name. It was an all-black sleeve with white for the composer’s name and that of the works and musicians. It struck quite a funereal look, the record label was magenta, and there were no notes. Mark Obert-Thorn has done a fine job with the restoration, eliminating any pops and crackles – my LP has a few of those – and bringing the sound forward somewhat.

In a tantalising twist for admirers of the cellist we now have four of the five Beethoven sonatas available: the three here and the studio recording he made of Op.69 with Simon Rumschisky which is on the first volume of Pristine’s survey. I wonder what happened to the two sonatas, including Op.69, which Salmond and Hambro recorded in 1948 at Juilliard but were never issued. Dare one hope they’re still in a vault somewhere?

As I noted before, Salmond was a consummate musician, stylistically cosmopolitan, and one who eschewed the more lascivious expressive gestures of players of an earlier generation – and indeed some of his own generation. It’s always disappointed me that no recordings of the Chamber Music Players exist with Salmond – that would have been impossible for contractual reasons as one quarter of the group, pianist William Murdoch, stayed loyal to Columbia in the early 1920s whilst Salmond, Lionel Tertis and Albert Sammons defected en masse to Vocalion.

Rather than lament that, I can whole-heartedly welcome this disc. Salmond and Hambro make a well-balanced team – Hambro was a notably successful accompanist in addition to his other gifts –and despite nearing the dangerous 60s, Salmond’s technique remained in excellent shape. Almost at the same time as Salmond and Hambro were recording the sonatas Fournier and Schnabel were doing the same for HMV. It’s notable that that latter team are the more rhythmically ebullient, certainly in the D major sonata, but that Fournier’s rubati are far more elastic than Salmond’s. It’s this sense of unsentimentalised direction, an avoidance of the inessential, that marks out Salmond as a performer. He may have been an unsparing, sometimes unforgiving teacher, but his musicianship bears all the hallmarks of a lifetime devoted to the musical core, to the rise and flow of phraseology – clean playing, purposeful and direct, with phrasal plasticity when required but always to serve the musical line. The fugato here is excellently realised. The buoyant hunting motifs in the F major are well brought out and Salmond’s drone is good too – neither overdone nor under-characterised. There’s a noticeable edit at 3:26 as preserved in the LP transfer about which nothing can be done. It’s over before you really notice. The C major gets a delightfully balanced and mature reading.

The remainder of the disc is given over to 78rpm sides made in New York for Columbia between 1926-28 The Beethoven Magic Flute variations were recorded over four sides of two 10 inch discs. Salmond fanciers have always liked this performance, which is tastefully witty. The Pianelli Villanelle, arranged by Joseph Salmon shows his sympathetic playing of this kind of music, where the temptation to too much ardour is cannily rejected in favour of renewed directness. The Largo from the Chopin sonata makes one wish he’d had the opportunity to record the whole thing with Rumschisky. To end there is a trio of French pieces, elegantly done all of them but none definably Gallic in spirit, not even the Fauré. Instead they reflect Salmond’s adaptable, broad-ranging sympathies expertly.

I assume that this is the last of Salmond from Pristine. I live in hope that the Vocalions will turn up in good transfers and that someone recorded one or more of his New York broadcasts – either as soloist or chamber player. That would really cheer me up.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5, No. 1 [19:50]
Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102, No. 1 [13:44]
Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102, No. 2 [18:44]
Leonid Hambro (piano)
rec. 1948, Juilliard Concert Hall, New York City
First released in 1960 on an unnumbered private LP issued by Juilliard
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
7 Variations on “Bei Männern” from Die Zauberflöte [9:46]
rec. 4 June 1928, New York City
Matrix nos.: W 14386-1, 14387-4, 14388-4 & 14389-4 (Columbia 179-M/180-M)
Antonio de PIANELLI (1747-1803) (arr. Joseph Salmon)
Villanelle [3:45]
rec. 19 April 1926, New York City
Matrix no.: W 98241-2 (Columbia 7117-M)
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Largo from Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65 [3:33]
rec. 5 June 1928, New York City
Matrix no.: W 146391-3 (Columbia 169-M)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse (Cradle Song), Op. 16 [3:42]
rec. 4 June 1928, New York City
Matrix no.: W 146390-4 (Columbia 169-M)
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Adagietto from L’Arlésienne [2:47]
rec. 29 April 1927, New York City
Matrix no.: W 143184-7 (Columbia 2054-M)
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Serenade, Op. 7 [3:18]
rec. 29 April 1927, New York City
Matrix no.: W 144032-6 (Columbia 2054-M)
Simeon Rumschisky (piano)



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