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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042 [16:50]*
Partita No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002 - Sarabande [3:39]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767)
Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in A minor [7:59]
Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in G minor [6:16]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in B flat major [11:17]
Johann MATTHESON (1681-1764)
Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in E minor [9:15]
Louis Kaufman (violin)
Bach Chamber Symphony Group/Jacques Rachmilovich*
Antoine Geoffroy-Dechaume (harpsichord)
rec. 1950-1952

This recent release from Forgotten Records collates four recordings featuring the American violinist Louis Kaufman (1905-1994) in music by Baroque composers, three German and one Venetian. They’ve been sourced from Tempo, Lyrichord and Eurochord LPs - good, clean copies by the sound of these transfers. The recording dates given are 1950 for the Bach and 1952 for the works with harpsichord. I wondered if these dates were correct, as the Kaufman discography, included as a supplement in the violinist's own autobiography A Fiddler's Tale, gives 1945 for the Bach and 1955 for the rest.

Kaufman was a prolific recording artist, and in addition to his classical discography he can be heard on the soundtracks of numerous films. His sound, richly-coloured and intoxicatingly opulent, coupled with sensuous, expressive portamenti, seems to have attracted the Hollywood moguls. Stylistically, he resides in the same pen as Kreisler and Heifetz. In the Baroque arena, his 1947 Vivaldi Four Seasons won a Grand Prix du Disque in 1950.

I'm afraid the Bach Second Concerto doesn't work for me. The outer movements are relentlessly driven, leaving one to wonder whether he had a bus to catch. Things don't improve in the slow movement either. It's a classic case of over-gilding the lily, with Kaufman's over generous portamentos excessively cloying. That said, the Sarabande from the Partita No. 1 in B minor is an improvement. Eloquently delivered, the double stops are vibrant and potent.

The sonatas with harpsichord are a different kettle of fish. Kaufman is very fortunate to be partnered by Antoine Geoffroy-Dechaume (1905-2000). I say fortunate, as Geoffroy-Dechaume, musicologist, organist and harpsichordist, happened to hold the distinction of being the leading pioneer in France in the field of early music; respect for the original score being his byword. To an extent he acts as a counterbalance to some of Kaufman’s romantic excesses. Whilst Telemann and Tartini are familiar figures I, for one, have never heard any music by Johann Mattheson before.

The performances are nicely paced, and notable for their grace, elegance and refinement. Careful matching of phrases and dynamics bears testimony to ample rehearsal. Both instruments are ideally balanced in the mix, fortunately. Sometimes the keyboard is relegated to the shadows in these enterprises.

There are no accompanying annotations, but the listener is pointed in the direction of websites of relevance.

Stephen Greenbank



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