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Endre Wolf in Sweden - Studio and Private Recordings: 1944-1978 - Volume 2
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. 1949-78
DANACORD DACOCD763-768 [6 CDs: 448:00]

Listening to this newly released 6 CD set from the Danish label Danacord and the superb quality of playing on offer, it’s difficult to understand why Endre Wolf’s commercial discography is so meagre.

In 2012, the label issued a ‘twofer’ of the complete recordings the violinist made for Danish label Tono (review). Four years later here comes Volume 2, consisting of radio-studio and private recordings, all making their first appearance on CD. The only other commercial recording I am aware of is the 1958 recording of Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the Sinfonia of London under Anthony Collins, set down in Hammersmith Town Hall, London and issued on World Record Club and Columbia Musical Treasures LPs. This has recently been reissued by Forgotten Records FR1090 (review). Danacord’s booklet notes refer to a 1940 studio recording the violinist made with the viola player Tage Broström and the conductor Tor Mann of Kurt Atterberg’s Third Suite for Violin and Viola Op. 19, released on BIS vinyl boxed set BIS-LP-301-303 in 1985.

Endre Wolf (1913-2011) was born in Budapest, and studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with Jenö Hubay and Leo Weiner. He was concertmaster of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden from 1936 until 1946, and for the duration of the war gave solo and string-quartet performances throughout neutral Sweden. After the war he emigrated to England and, between 1954 and 1964, was a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He was a frequent visitor to the Henry Wood Promenade concerts in London where, in 1954, he performed the Brahms Double Concerto with the French cellist André Navarra at a Prom with the Hallé and Sir John Barbirolli. Such was their enthusiasm for the work that they performed it together four more times in the Royal Albert Hall. His other Prom’s ventures included concertos by Mendelssohn, Beethoven (twice) and Brahms (twice). After leaving Manchester, he held teaching posts at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Lund University and the Swedish Radio music school, near Stockholm. He maintained a career well into his eighties, and lived to the grand old age of ninety-seven.

We kick off with a disc devoted to Johann Sebastian Bach, with the solo items emanating from the 1970s, and consequently in much finer sound that the concertos from much earlier. If I can turn to the concertos first, the A minor derives from a live concert performance from Gothenburg, dated 15 March 1961, and applause is retained. It’s a heavily romanticised reading, reminiscent of Oistrakh father and son. Wolf’s expressive vibrato and restrained tempi set it on a different course from performances of today. The E major Concerto fares much better. Dating from even earlier, it is a 1949 Tono recording, in a vibrant transfer by Claus Byrith. Tempi are more agreeable, and the violin is nicely projected. Wolf’s eloquent phrasing in the slow movement has a rapt intensity. The violinist himself directs the players. Sound quality in both concertos is perfectly acceptable. The two solo Partitas are defined by elegance, refinement, freshness and spontaneity. Wolf’s delivery is clean and seamless, and is informed by intelligence and keen musicianship. He penetrates to the heart of the music, and leaves me to regret that he never set down a complete commercial cycle of these masterpieces.

There are six concerto performances included, three being of standard repertoire, and three Swedish concertos, none of which I have heard before. The Brahms Double Concerto is a radio recording from 1959, and is in the best sound of the three ‘standards’. Wolf is partnered by the Danish cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (who has himself benefited from a Danacord series: review review review review review). The first movement is suitably robust and muscular, with a second movement lyrically expressive and exuding seductive charm. The work ends with a finale of verve and vigour. Both soloists blend well, and their playing is both stylish and polished. I’ve always admired Stig Westerberg, and he doesn’t disappoint here, inspiring his soloists and players to deliver a reading of conviction and passion. Although the Beethoven Concerto performance dates from 1973, its origin is a domestically taped public concert. There’s a certain amount of background hiss throughout. Despite this, it is a reading of patrician elegance and nobility. Wolf’s richly coloured tone, and flawless intonation shine forth. He employs the Joachim cadenzas, and these are rendered with stunning technical precision. Sergiu Commissiona proves a sympathetic collaborator. The Sibelius Concerto, from a concert dated 17 February 1944, is more problematic. Due to a mishap, the recording technician at the concert forgot to turn up the volume on the soloist’s microphone until about two minutes into the performance. The result is that the violinist cannot be heard at the beginning but gradually emerges out of the mist. The performance is thus played against a backdrop of acetate swish, and the notes detail the audio restoration that has taken place. Sibelius would frequently listen on his radio to performances of his works from Gothenburg, and I’m sure he would not have been disappointed with Wolf’s incandescent playing. The conductor on this occasion is Sixten Eckerberg, who takes on the role of pianist in a rather lacklustre and uninvolved reading of the César Franck Sonata. In fine sound for its age and provenance, the performance derives from a private recording, dated October 1952.

The three Swedish Concertos which comprise CD 5 are, for me, unknown entities, but the booklet provides some background information. The melodious Koch Triptych of 1949 is the earliest and most appealing. Cast in a tonal idiom, its middle movement is especially beguiling, with Wolf coaxing some ravishing sounds from his fiddle. There’s some lovely woodwind scoring. Sven-Erik Bäck’s Concerto (1957) is a total contrast, and probably the most difficult of the three to penetrate. Highly dissonant, the first movement is aggressive and angular. Again, the angst-ridden middle movement stands out. Wolf’s lonely violin narrative portrays desolation and isolation, with frequent cries of pain. The work is expertly orchestrated, with timpani and percussion featuring heavily. The Rosenberg (1951) is the longest of the three and, on first hearing, sounds rather long-winded. With repeated listening it begins to reveal its secrets. Wolf’s assured performance is again aided by the inspirational conducting of Stig Westerberg. Rosenberg wrote some wonderful string quartets which I greatly admire and recommend.

Wolf has an instinctive feel for the music of his compatriots Bartók and Kodály. The three works which comprise CD 4 are all Swedish Radio recordings dating from the late sixties and early seventies, and are in extremely fine sound. The Bartók Sonata No. 2 is a two movement work, with the first movement having a very improvisatory feel. This idiomatic account takes note of all the subtleties of nuance and inflexion the work demands, with portamenti and glissandi adding to the Hungarian flavour. The violinist’s range of colourful bow effects, coupled with rhythmic energy, and Hans Leygraf’s pliant pianism, set the seal on a thrilling account. The Solo Sonata is no less engaging with Wolf summoning his reserves of technical prowess, intellectual vigour and expressive control to produce one of the finest versions I’ve heard. The Hungarian folk-inflected Duo by Kodály finds Wolf paired once again with the cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson. Both artists are well-matched tonally, and their phrasing and dynamics similarly concur. The tender lyricism of the Adagio has serenity and calm, whilst the finale ends the work in a flurry of excitement and an edge-of-seat flourish.

There’s a CD devoted to Wolf’s collaborations with the Swedish pianist Hans Leygraf. All four sonatas were taped by Swedish Radio between 1967 and 1972, and all are in fine audio quality. There’s an evident rapport and mutual respect between the two artists, tangible in these performances. For me, the Brahms is the highlight, and is in the best sound. They bring intimacy and affection to this expansive reading, and Wolf’s rich, warm tone, truly makes its presence felt. Both players are balanced favourably in the mix. In Beethoven’s Op. 96, the pastoral flavour of the sonata is emphasized, and the performance embodies an intoxicating blend of eloquence and sensitivity.

The six CDs are housed in two sturdy gatefolds which, when opened out, reveal superbly reproduced plates (back and front) of Wolf’s 1716 Strad. The set includes a 140 page booklet in English and Swedish, containing essays detailing significant milestones in the violinist’s life as well as discussion of the participating musicians. An added bonus is a selection of beautifully produced black and white photographs of the violinist and artists he collaborated with. In expanding and widening Wolf’s scant discographical legacy, Danacord have done him proud.

Stephen Greenbank
 
Complete track-listing
 
CD 1 [78:02]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita for violin unaccompanied No. 1 b minor, BWV 1002 [22:10]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3 Stockholm, 20 March 1973.
The archive of radio recordings 5252-72/1290, tape.
Concerto No. 1, a minor for violin and orchestra, BWV 1041 [16:29]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Michael Gielen
rec. public concert, Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 15 March 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/C/1055:17-23, tape.
Partita for violin unaccompanied No. 3 E major, BWV 1006 [19:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. public concert, Studio 2, Stockholm, 15 April 1978.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-77/1008, tape.
Concerto No. 2, E major for violin and orchestra, BWV 1042 [17:54]
The Chamber Orchestra of Copenhagen/Endre Wolf (conductor/violin)
rec. record company Tono, Odd Fellow’s Palace, Copenhagen, 15-16 September 1949. Tono X 23132-34, masters 3524-28, 78:s. Transfers Claus Byrith, Risskov.

CD 2 [72:27]
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Four Pieces Op. 7 for violin and piano [5:08]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 4 April 1972.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-72/1289, tape.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata No. 2 A major, Op. 100 for violin and piano [20:38]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, Stockholm, 19 May 1971.
The archive of radio recordings 5452-70/1307, tape.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 96 for violin and piano [18:18]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, 29 November 1967.
Not preserved in the archive of radio recordings.
Aircheck by Endre Wolf, 21 March 1968, tape.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata [No. 10/26/34] B flat major K 378 (K 317 d) for violin and piano [18:14]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 25 March 1969. The archive of radio recordings, 5452-68/1458, tape.
Endre Wolf (violin)
Hans Leygraf (piano)

CD 3 [78:00]
Johannes BRAHMS
Concerto for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra, A minor, Op. 102 [32:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm/Stig Westerberg
rec. Swedish Radio in the Concert Hall of Stockholm, 20 May 1959.
The archive of radio recordings, Ma 59/12652, tape.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Concerto in D major Op. 61 for Violin and Orchestra [45:28]
Endre Wolf (violin)
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sergiu Commissiona
rec. public concert, Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 25 February 1973.
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sergiu Commissiona
rec. Sven Kruckenberg for the domestic tape archive.

CD 4 [78:54]
Belá BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonata for violin and piano No. 2 [21:44]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Hans Leygraf (piano)
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 3, Stockholm, 8 February 1969.
The archive of radio recordings, 5252-68/1413, tape.
Sonata for violin unaccompanied [29:45]
Endre Wolf (violin)
rec. Swedish Radio Studio 2, Stockholm, 27 June 1973.
The archive of radio recordings, 5452-72/1299, tape.
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7 [27:20]
rec. Swedish Radio, Studio 4, Stockholm, 3 October 1966. Not preserved in the archive of radio recordings. Aircheck by Endre Wolf, 28 May 1967, tape.
Endre Wolf (violin)
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)

CD 5 [69:18]
Erland von KOCH (1910-2009)
Triptych for violin and orchestra, Op. 43 [18:21]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Swedish Radio Orchestra/Sten Frykberg
rec. public concert in the auditorium of the Royal Academy of Music, 23 September 1951.
The archive of radio recordings L-B 15.081, acetate/tape.
Sven-Erik BÄCK (1919-1994)
Concerto per violino ed orchestra [19:12]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Michael Gielen
rec. public concert in the Concert Hall of Gothenburg, 15 March 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/C/1055:17-23 (9), tape.
Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)
Concerto No. 2 per violino ed orchestra [31:39]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Swedish Radio Orchestra/Stig Westerberg
rec. Swedish Radio in the auditorium of the Royal Academy of Music, 9 April 1961.
The archive of radio recordings 61/M/1280, tape.

CD 6 [71:10]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Sonata A major for violin and piano [28:23]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Sixten Eckerberg (piano)
rec. radio concert in the Stenhammar Hall of Gothenburg, 6 October 1952.
Private copy/the Royal Library R 92-0300 = F 43 tape.
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Aallottaret (The Oceanides), Op. 73 [11:53]
Endre Wolf (concert master)
Concerto for violin and orchestra d minor, Op. 47 [30:47]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Sixten Eckerberg
rec. Swedish Radio. The archive of radio recordings L-B+ 4.948.
Restored by Carl-Gunnar Ĺhlén from poor wartime acetates/tape.
Endre Wolf sometime during the 1950s.

 

 




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