Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12/1 (1797/98) [20:56]
Violin sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12/2 (1797/98) [17:32]
Violin sonata No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 12/3 (1797/98) [20:32]
Violin sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23, (1801) [19:50]
Violin sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring (1801) [23:12]
Violin sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30/1 (1803) [22:18]
Violin sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30/2 (1803) [24:51]
Franco Gulli (violin)
Enrica Cavallo (piano)
rec. 1956-1959, Schola Cantorum, Paris FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1151/2 [78:49 + 70:21]
Violin sonata No. 8 in G Major, Op. 30/3 (1803) [17:19]
Violin sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 Kreutzer (1803) [34:24]
Violin sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 (1812) [26:55]
Franco Gulli (violin)
Enrica Cavallo (piano)
rec. 1956-1959, Schola Cantorum, Paris FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1153 [78:38]
Sourced from well-preserved LPs (Le Club Français du disque CFD 151/4 and Musidisc RC 724/27) this rare Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle is making its long-awaited debut on CD. It features the Italian violinist Franco Gulli (1926-2001) and his wife Enrica Cavallo (1921-2007). Gulli, who was born in Trieste, studied violin with his father Franco Gulli (senior), who had been a pupil of Otakar Ševčík and Jan Mařák at the Prague Conservatory. Later young Franco transferred to Joseph Szigeti in Switzerland. His career began as concertmaster of the Milan Chamber Orchestra and soloist of the renowned ensemble I Virtuosi di Roma. He and Cavallo met after the war, forming the Gulli-Cavallo Duo in 1947 and marrying in 1950. The duo performed regularly up until Franco’s death, having toured the world. Throughout his life he gave masterclasses and sat on the juries of several international competitions. He was a member of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, the Accademia Cherubini, Florence, and the Reale Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, and held a Professorship at the University of Bloomington in Indiana. One of his claims to fame was his 1959 recording premiere of the then newly-discovered Paganini Concerto No. 5.
The Italian label IDIS have done much to promote Gulli’s legacy, releasing recordings of concertos by Tartini, Paganini, Bartók and Prokofiev. His Vivaldi Four Seasons with Chailly is available on Decca, and there’s a Beethoven and Mendelssohn Concerto disc on an obscure French label which I’ve never been able to track down.
Gulli commands a glowing, well-projected tone. His fast vibrato, not very varied, does limit his tonal palette somewhat. Unlike Heifetz, Menuhin and Perlman, he doesn’t employ expressive slides or position changes, and his intonation is for the most part spot-on. These are refreshingly spontaneous readings with plenty of personality. Gulli hardly ever worked with any pianist other than his wife, and their familiarity with these sonatas, which they must have performed together many times, shows in the evident rapport between them. Articulation, phrasing and dynamic gradients are instinctively matched throughout.
The technical demands of the opening movement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 12, No. 3 are admirably addressed. An eloquent Adagio follows, with the finale brimming with rhythmic buoyancy and drive. Op. 30 No. 1 in A major is one of my favourites. The opening movement is of a sunny, affable disposition. In the haunting second movement, I’m drawn to the way Cavallo sensitively accompanies Gulli’s lyrical line, matching phrase for phrase. In the finale the variations are expertly characterized, with each instrument taking the opportunity to shine. The ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata is a noble reading displaying maturity of vision. There’s drama and passion in the first movement and poise and refinement in Adagio sostenuto. The spirited finale is dispatched with gusto and elan. The duo capture the pastoral character of the opening movement of the Violin Sonata No.10 in G major Op.96, and achieve ardent tenderness in their rendition of the slow movement. The only disappointment is a rather routine ‘Spring’ Sonata, where I came away feeling somewhat short-changed on poetic insights.
These are excellent, bright, clear-sounding transfers and digital re-masterings. No notes are provided, but there’s plenty of information on the internet regarding the artists for those interested. I hope Forgotten Records will one day release the Gulli/Cavallo partnership in sonatas by Schubert, Respighi and Ghedini.