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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 61 [42:12]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77 [37:13]
Albert Spalding (violin)
Austrian Symphony Orchestra/Wilhelm Loibner
rec. 1952, Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna

During his lifetime, Albert Spalding became known as ‘The Greatest American Violinist’. He was born in Chicago in 1888, son of an affluent business man in sporting goods. His musical gifts probably came from his mother who was both a pianist and contralto. He studied in Florence, where his family spent the winter months, and in America in the summers. At fourteen he graduated at the Bologna Conservatory. He later spent two years studying in Paris with Augustin Lefort, and made his debut there in 1905. He spent World War I in service, then embarked on a solo career. He also enlisted for service in World War II. Around 1950 he retired, and died in 1953.

Although Spalding retired from the concert platform in 1950, he continued to make recordings. At around this time he was approached by Remington to make some recordings in Europe under the supervision of Laszlo Halasz, Remington's Recording Director. A golden opportunity for the violinist to record in Vienna presented itself, and the result was the Beethoven and Brahms concertos we have here, which were set down in November 1952 in the Brahms Hall (Brahmssaal) of the Musikverein. These recordings were the first using the pioneering MUSIRAMA technique, utilising multiple microphone placements. The conductor is Wilhelm Loibner (1909-1971), a name largely forgotten today. He could boast an impressive pedigree, having studied under Clemens Krauss and Franz Schmidt. At the age of only twenty-eight, he had been appointed conductor at the Vienna State Opera.

Spalding’s playing sounds modern, which may surprise some as his birth date predates several famous artists who were schooled in a more antiquated style. He belonged to no famous school, but in contrast to other pre-Heifetz violinists, he was careful to adopt a more progressive approach to his technique and playing style.

Loibner’s tempi, especially in the first movement tuttis, are comfortable and nicely paced. Spalding’s playing is notable for it’s elegance and refinement. The slow movements are particularly effective, and his lyrical contouring of the line is both instinctive and eloquent. The finales are rhythmically buoyant and crisply articulated. The cadenzas in both concertos I didn’t recognize. I suspect that they’re his own – it must be remembered that he was a small-time composer who penned two violin concertos and a string quartet. His intonation by this stage in his career is a little off-centre at times. This is especially so in the slow movement of the Brahms. His vibrato is on the fast side.

Every care has been taken to produce good quality transfers and remasterings from Remington, Concerteum and Varèse Sarabande LPs. As with many Forgotten Records releases, there is no accompanying documentation, but pointers are given to information of relevant interest.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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