One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and we have not even reviewed it yet. Multiple copies sold.

La Mer Ticciati




simply marvellous

Outstanding music

Elite treatment

some joyous Gershwin

Bartok String Quartets
uniquely sensitive

Cantatas for Soprano


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 61 (1806) [42:12]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77 (1878) [37:13]
Albert Spalding (violin)
Austrian Symphony Orchestra/Wilhelm Loibner
rec. 1952, Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna

Remington signed a deal to record the Beethoven and Brahms concertos in the Brahms-Saal of the Musikverein in Vienna in 1952. The chosen soloist was the veteran American, Albert Spalding (1888-1953) – so veteran, in fact, that he had been retired since May 1950. Nevertheless, they were to be his only non-78rpm concerto recordings in what were to prove to be his last studio sessions. Remington used the so-called Musirama multiple-microphone technique; there were, in fact, four microphones recording in mono. It’s highly likely, given timing and financial constraints, that these were all single-take performances.

Despite the imperfections and occasionally wandering intonation, it’s still a rewarding experience to hear Spalding in the two greatest concertos for his instrument. In the Beethoven his lower strings can sound rather guttural and slow-to-sound in places but his upper strings are still quite fast, the vibrato characteristically fleet and decidedly pellucid in sound. Some studio noises-off only add to the verisimilitude of the recording. His tempi are perfectly acceptable – no Elmanesque slowing down (to cite another veteran also recording in Europe) - and he graces the music with deft slides. Are these his own cadenzas? Spalding’s dignity is best in evidence in his phrasing in the slow movement, albeit he’s not helped by the too-functional orchestral support he receives from the Austrian Symphony Orchestras aka the Vienna Tonkunstler Symphony Orchestra. The finale is somewhat underpowered but is suitably playful.

The Brahms Concerto is notably successful in terms of structure. Sometimes, inevitably perhaps, Spalding’s tone bleaches white but his is refined, propulsive and principled playing. His tone may not be as attractive as it once was but he was clearly out to give a good, unsentimental account of the work, playing up to tempo. Again I suspect the cadenza may be his own – he was a fine composer too. Whilst the central movement has been played more poetically Spalding plays with elegance and Loibner delineates the accompanying string sections very adeptly. The violinist engenders a degree of pathos here, and though he could be earthier – Spalding didn’t really do earthy – and embrace the more rustic spirits of the dance in the finale, his performance is honest and enjoyable.

Forgotten Records has used good source material; Remington (or possibly Concerteum) for the Beethoven and possibly the same for the Brahms. If they’ve used the Varese Sarabande (VC81059) for the latter then the transfer on that LP was via the original 30ips master tapes, rather than the 15ips that Remington used commercially.

I’ve written several times about Spalding in reviews and hope I’ve communicated my admiration for his elegant, clean-cut but refined playing. His concerto ‘Last Will and Testament’ offers imperfections but also strong vestiges of his rewarding musicianship.

Jonathan Woolf



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger