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Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Havanaise in E, Op. 83 (1887) [10:10]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 (1868) [27:00]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47 (1903 rev. 1905) [37:32]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani [5:01]
Guila Bustabo (violin)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Werner Schmid-Boelcke (Saint-SaŽns)
NDR (Hannover) Radio Orchestra/Thomas Ungar (Bruch)
Orchestra dellas Svizzera Italiana/Jean Fournet (Sibelius)
Hans Altmann (piano: Kreisler)
rec. Munich Haus des Sports, Bavarian Radio, January 1959 (Saint-SaŽns): Landesfunkhaus, Hannover, North German Radio, May 1964 (Bruch): Lugan, Teatro Kursaal, Radiotelevisione Svizzera, May 1965 (Sibelius): Munich Studio BR, Bavarian Radio, December 1958 (Kreisler)
MELOCLASSIC MC2029 [79:44]

Meloclassic revisits the art of American violinist Guila Bustabo (see previous release). There the triumvirate was Brahms, Paganini and Saint-SaŽns whilst with this latest disc the focus is squarely on Bruch and Sibelius – the latter one of her great successes in a limited studio discography.

There’s a broadcast performance of the Bruch made in October 1940 in which Bustabo was partnered by Mengelberg (Music and Arts) that sets the bar high for vivid violinism, its smoky intensity easily bridging the decades that separate wartime Amsterdam from the present. By 1964 in Hannover things were more becalmed, and two and a half minutes had been added to the timing. Thomas Ungar is alternately lethargic and helpfully supportive and whilst the slow movement still has vestiges of that youthful ardour and urgency, there is now, inevitably perhaps, a greater reflective quality to the music-making. Some, indeed, may find Bustabo’s communicative arsenal just a bit too expressively insistent, even so. Her over-tremulous tone in the finale is certainly characteristic. The performance merited warm applause that night, though to preserve 1:40 of it seems somewhat indulgent.

The following year a better conductor – Jean Fournet – took the rostrum to accompany Bustabo in one of her warhorses, the Sibelius. The Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana lends capable support. The fervent instincts that propelled her wartime 78rpm set – not easily available these days in CD transfer – had not disappeared in the Lugano Kursaal. Her tone production remains intense, and there’s a torrid vibrancy throughout the scale. But architecturally she’s a little more self-disciplined than she had been, when rhythmic incongruities could bedevil her very self-willed playing. There’s a degree of tonal harshness as she volcanically widens her vibrato in the slow movement – compare and contrast the more icily-inclined Anja Ignatius – but this is still a mesmerizing reading. As if stunned by its own product Meloclassic has here preserved five minutes of applause, which means that nearly seven minutes of this disc contains clapping. Surely this is wildly excessive? Wasn’t there another vignette piece that could have been included?

The Havanaise enshrines her quite hooded tone with technique still robust and resilient. Her sound is still vibrant and alive, the vibrato still relatively fast. It reminds one of something Eugene Goossens wrote when he heard her in London a couple of years earlier. She reminded him, he said, of no less a figure than Ysaˇe. Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro was one of the pieces she’d recorded in London before the war, with Gerald Moore. Then she led him a merry dance with her ensemble-disdaining rhythmic games but in 1958 with Hans Altmann concordance is the name of the game. It’s not much to go on, true, but Altmann sounds a splendid pianist.

Apart from some small, brief damage, expertly repaired, in the very early stages of the Sibelius, the recorded sound is excellent. So too the perceptive and biographically helpful booklet notes from Michael Waiblinger. Bustabo’s legacy continues to stimulate and surprise.

Jonathan Woolf



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