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

It can seem puzzling that the last commercial recordings made by Felix Salmond (1888-1952) date from 1930. That was when he was only forty-two, yet his concert career continued for much longer. Aside from the Depression, in the 1930s instrumentalists seemed only to record in Europe. Salmond was based in America, having teaching commitments at both Juilliard and Curtis. The situation did change but it came too late for him, as the focus of attention then switched to the ‘new generation’ cellists, such as Feuermann and Piatigorsky. Having said that Mark Obert-Thorn, who produced this valuable release, states in his accompanying note that Salmond’s playing ‘has a decidedly modern feel’, devoid of the over-sentimentalised, portamento-laden excesses of some of his contemporaries.

The three Beethoven Cello Sonatas we have here derive from a private LP released in 1960 to help raise funds to establish a scholarship in the cellist’s name. In fact the recordings had been taped twelve years before that in 1948 in the Juilliard Concert Hall, New York City. A year earlier on 29 March 1947, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of his American debut, Salmond and his pianist Leonid Hambro had programmed all five sonatas in the same venue. Disappointingly only three were issued on the LP yet they present the cellist in the finest sound we will ever hear him. This release is Volume 2, and in the first volume there is a commercial recording of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No.3 in A major, Op.69, set down in the 1920s, with the pianist Simeon Rumschisky (review). I’ve never heard it so can’t offer an opinion.

The Adagio sostenuto introduction to the first movement of the Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major paves the way for an Allegro which is characterized by vivacity, freshness and spontaneity. It is a comfortably paced reading, in no way over-indulgent. Yes, the playing does sound ‘modern’. Salmond draws a large full-bodied tone, and his playing in the faster passages is clean and incisive. The captivating Rondo which follows has a rhythmic acuity and joie de vivre, with both players truly bringing the music to life.

The two Op. 102 Sonatas date from 1815, the beginning of the composer’s late period. They both display otherworldly and transcendental qualities. There’s also a concentration of form, where everything is pared down to the essentials. Salmond and Hambro serve up deeply felt and probing accounts of both works, plumbing the spiritual depths with instinctive grasp. The Adagio of No. 2 is a soul-searching account, intense and sensitively sculpted. I was struck by the superb balance achieved by the engineers of the time between both instrumentalists in all three sonatas, with the piano on an equal footing, in no way relegated to the shadows. This is a positive advantage in the fugal finale of the second sonata, where the character takes on an affable dialogue between the two protagonists.

Though sonically in a different league, the early electricals were set down between 1926 and 1928. The pianist here is Simeon Rumschisky. All the positive attributes of Salmond’s playing shine through – elegance, charm and refinement. The beauty of tone and the intuitive phrasing are a source of constant wonder. The Beethoven Variations are my favourite, a performance imbued with joy and humour. The Pierné, which ends the disc, has real delicacy and Gallic charm.

Mark Obert-Thorn’s restoration and re-masterings are excellent in every way and, at nearly 80 minutes, this is a generously timed CD. Pristine Audio are to be lauded for their championing of this long-forgotten cellist. Will there be more to come?

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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