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Wanda Luzzato: Jenő Hubay’s “most talented pupil after Vecsey”
Unreleased recordings
rec. 1955-1979
RHINE CLASSICS RH-002 [8 CDs: ca 510 mins]

This is the only the second release to be devoted to the art of Italian violinist Wanda Luzzato (1919-2002) and it appears as an 8-CD box in the second volume of Rhine Classics’s exciting new Art of the Violin series. The first Luzzato disc came recently on the Meloclassic label. As before I’d refer readers intrigued by Luzzato to consult Gianluca La Villa’s biography on this site (see article).

Luzzato never recorded commercially, so these are precious documents, charting nearly a quarter-century of her career. They include a series of radio performances and rehearsals. As well as standard sonata material one finds major concerto undertakings and premières.

One of the significant documents comes in the first disc, a 1960 radio broadcast of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto. On no account neglect this, because it’s a wonderful reading. Luzzato flecks, nudges and slides, infusing the music with a wealth of colour and dynamics. Moreover, she generates tremendous heat, abetted by Efrem Kurtz, whose conducting is vital and subtle. Listen to the way he brings out the military brass calls in the first movement and characterises with such detail; listen also to the way he holds the rhythm steady, not to impede drive but actually to increase tension. Her portamenti are piquant, her trill of electric velocity and the first movement cadenza is truly commanding. The melancholy orchestral colours in the slow movement are refracted through Luzzato’s own bewitching tonal palette and in the finale some lyric-tremulous phrasing leads to a triumphant conclusion. The coupling here is Mendelssohn’s Concerto, from Milan in 1966 with Franco Caraccioli. The opening is unexpectedly elastic and relaxed, but the movement builds up a greater vitality as it goes on. The slow movement is warmly caressed though not ideally expressive and the finale is taken at a good, steady tempo.

The second disc delivers another Mendelssohn performance, this time from 1970 with Niklaus Wyss directing Orchestra della Radio Svizzera Italiana. This tape is in better condition than the earlier performance, though there is not much interpretative difference to be noted, and nor should one expect it given the two performances were taped only a few years apart. Perhaps the later reading’s opening movement is a touch more linear. The existence of these two Mendelssohn performances points to her relatively limited concerto repertoire, or maybe it also points to the limited opportunities to present wider examples from it. In any case the Ghedini Divertimento provides an excellent example of her work with a living composer, performing a work dedicated to, and premièred by her. The world premiere, captured here, was given in 1960 with Hilmar Schatz and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI. Her arching, fluting, musing and lyrically expressive playing is at the service of a vivid four-movement work, which embraces a rather snarly alla polka - a nasal march, with menacing hints – as well as a gloriously rapt slow movement, the piety and generosity of which is heightened by Luzzato’s very special brand of colour-conscious expression. The disc ends with an invaluable 20-minute rehearsal with just soloist and composer. Their spirited discussion is an intriguing example of behind-the-scenes preparation. You won’t need much Italian to appreciate the composer’s insistence on rhythmic exactitude.

CD3 includes works for violin and piano. Strauss’s Sonata with pianist Hans Vogt was taped in Basel in 1962. This work was included by Meloclassic in their Luzzato twofer, though the 1960 radio broadcast there was accompanied by Hans Priegnitz. Luzzato’s quivering intensity is a given in this work, where subtlety takes the place of heft, and I’d reprise my characterisation of her performance here: purity of tone is always audible, but there’s no speed for its own sake, so it’s not at all similar to the diverse readings of such titans as Kaufman, Heifetz, or Neveu – to cite just three. Franco Margola’s 1936-37 Sonata is heard in a Milan RAI rehearsal given in December 1968. One hears her speech as well as that of pianist Antonio Beltrami briefly, as they discuss a few interpretative points. This is an immediately attractive, very lyrical work though the sound is somewhat constricted. Similarly, the Pizzetti Tre Canti and Szymanowski’s La Fontaine d’Arethuse (somewhat truncated unfortunately) are RAI rehearsals. The Appassionato of the Pizzetti is especially vivid, whilst the Szymanowski is passionately done. One can regret that she didn’t record more Szymanowski and it’s worth listening through the constricted sound to appreciate how strongly she played in rehearsal.

The fourth CD delves back to Schubert and Schumann. The former’s Sonata in D major and Schumann’s Second Sonata, Op.121 come from an unedited tape of a 1962 rehearsal. As such there are two breakdowns included alongside the completed first movements and a small amount of tuning up. There is also an actual radio broadcast of the Schumann from around the same time. The Schubert is attractively done, full of subtle detailing, without derailing the outgoing honesty of the reading. There’s very little temporal difference between these performances of the Schumann and the 1955 one with Priegnitz preserved by Meloclassic. In all three cases her reading is wonderfully persuasive, with a richly textured slow movement. Duplication of repertoire, as in the case of the Mendelssohn Concerto, is a corollary of there being so few surviving tapes.

Mendelssohn’s Op.4 Violin Sonata leads disc 5. It and the Franck Sonata are part of a radio rehearsal in Milan in 1962. The acoustic is dry and cramped and there are occasional comments from the performers. The Mendelssohn receives a fine reading with a nobly conceived slow movement, whilst the Franck is more hit and miss. The Allegro second movement in particular is taken at a stately tempo with extreme rubati, seldom truly convincing, even as a species of quasi-improvisation. The Ries Perpetuum mobile is abruptly cut off in mid-flow. The disc ends with another example of her Brahms A major sonata, which was also on her Meloclassic disc. Indeed, both examples come from 1955 so the direction of the music is very similar, only the detailing telling them apart. Beltrami is the more straight-forward pianist and more rhythmically rectitudinous. Priegnitz offers more inflection, and his recording has a far better bass presence and better sound generally.

Luzzato’s sonata recitals conformed to the practice of her own time, presenting a baroque sonata and then proceeding chronologically. The sixth disc offers a 1955 broadcast of Veracini’s Sonata in E minor, Op2/8 which prefaced the Brahms sonata already mentioned. The slow third movement is the one fiddlers often extracted. The whole sonata is played with delicacy, refinement and elegance and is again in good sound. Erica Morini played baroque pieces in full at this time but her aesthetic was very different to Luzzato’s; their soundworlds were at a strong remove. The remainder of this disc comes from a 1969 studio broadcast. The original master tape is lost and the copy here is subfusc and there’s a bit of hum. Her Handel – she chose the ubiquitous Op.1 No.13 - is steady rather than scintillating, whilst the Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro relies more on subtlety of bow weight than masculine force. The staccato-like opening is interesting. Once again, we hear her sole Szymanowski piece, though here – despite the occluded sound – it’s heard absolutely complete., as is the case with her Ries as well, thankfully. These trusty pieces were clearly frequent recital items for her. Then follows Bach and Paganini in home rehearsals – two isolated movements from the Partitas and Sonata, with one breakdown performance, and the Caprice No.5 by Paganini, heard in two home recordings made six years apart – again there’s a single breakdown. This is all exceptionally rare and a chance to eavesdrop on the artist as she workshops her performance.

Disc 7 continues the theme with home rehearsals of parts of the Ghedini and the complete solo violin part of Mozart’s D major Concerto and the Mendelssohn Concerto. Some will baulk at this but for those truly interested in an artist of significance, these examples of her working method will prove fascinating. Fortunately, the sound is good. The last disc preserves a RAI Milan broadcast of July 1979 in which she essayed two of her favourite sonatas, which have already been heard elsewhere in the box in earlier performances: Mendelssohn’s Op.4 and the Schumann. The tape is a little recessed and echo-laden and by now the Luzzato sound has lost quite a lot of its lustre, and her tempi have slackened to an appreciable degree. It’s somewhat analogous to what happened to Mischa Elman. She was now 60 and was soon, wisely from the evidence here, to call time on her career.

It’s interesting to read in the booklet of the surviving radio tapes yet to be issued: SDR tapes include sonatas by Bonporti and Stamitz, whilst SRF Basel tapes include Locatelli, Beethoven and Borghi sonatas as well as the Glazunov Concerto with Müller-Lampertz (I wonder what that sounds like). There’s a Grieg Sonata No.3 from RAI archives, amid much else, and a BBC recital with Ernest Lush in 1968, though no works are listed.

This outstanding box comes with a particularly, indeed conspicuously excellent 32-page booklet. The commentary is by Gianluca La Villa once again, and the standard of photographic reproduction of the numerous portraits is exceptional – aside from Luzzato these include her teacher, Hubay, jury members, conductors and violin makers, along with a plethora of reproductions of programmes and more besides.

It’s fortunate that these artefacts and the recordings have survived at all. They were found fortuitously in the cellar of a Luzzato family member. The tapes existed in various states with damage to a number but Cesare Marchesini of Soundfan of Bologna began the restoration process that was completed by the remastering of Emilio Pessina. Bravo to all concerned for this loving, extensive and rewarding box.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank (Recording of the Month)
Full track-listing
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI | Efrem Kurtz
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Sala Grande del Conservatorio G.Verdi, Milano | 25 March 1960
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)
[4]-[6] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI | Franco Caracciolo
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Teatro Fraschini, Pavia | 9 November 1966

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
[1]-[3] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Orchestra della Radio Svizzera Italiana | Niklaus Wyss
Recorded: live broadcast, RSI | Chiesa della Collegiata, Bellinzona | 7 June 1970
Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965)
[4]-[7] Divertimento in D major, for violin and orchestra (1959/60) -dedicated to Wanda Luzzato-  
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI | Hilmar Schatz
Recorded: live broadcast, RAI | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 28 October 1960
Giorgio Federico Ghedini
[8]   Divertimento in D major | violin solo part
Recorded: rehearsal | Ghedini’s room at the Conservatorio G.Verdi, Milano | October 1960

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata in E-flat major, Op.18
Hans Vogt, piano
Recorded: original master | BS studio M3, SRG Radio, Basel | 23 February 1962
Franco Margola (1908-1992)
[4]-[6] Violin Sonata No.3 “Sonata breve” (N. Cat. 46) (1936/37)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 19 December 1968 (broadcast: 17 January 1970)
Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968)
[7]-[9] Tre Canti, for violin and piano (1924)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
[10]   La Fontaine d’Arethuse, Op.30/1 (1915)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1968 (never broadcast)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
[1]-[4] Violin Sonata (Sonatina) No.1 in D major, Op.137/1, D.384
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
[5]-[9] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (broadcast: 29 May 1963)
(1-9: unedited tape | with performers speech)
Robert Schumann
[10]-[13] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (broadcast: 11 March 1963)

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
[1]-[3] Violin Sonata (No.2) in F minor, Op.4
César Franck (1822-1890)
[4]-[7] Violin Sonata in A major, M.8
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (telecast: 19 & 26 June 1963)
Franz Ries (1846-1932)
[8]   Perpetuum mobile, Op.34/5
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: rehearsal | studio RAI, Milano | 1962 (never broadcast)
(1-8: unedited tape | with performers speech)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
[9]-[11] Violin Sonata No.2 in A major, Op.100
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | broadcast: 13 March 1955

Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768)
[1]-[4] Violin Sonata in E minor, Op.2/8 (arr. Ferdinand David)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | broadcast: 13 March 1955
Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
[5]-[8] Violin Sonata (No.4) in D major, Op.1/13, HWV 371
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
[9]   Praeludium and Allegro “in the Style of Pugnani”, in E minor
Karol Szymanowski
[10]   La Fontaine d’Arethuse, Op.30/1 (from “Mythes”, M29)
Franz Ries
[11]   Perpetuum mobile, Op.34/5 (from “Suite No. III” in G major)
Antonio Beltrami, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 1969 (telecast: 26 June 1970)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
[12] Violin solo Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006: I. Preludio
[13]-[14] Violin solo Sonata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: III. Andante
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1960
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)
[15]-[16] Caprice No.5 in A minor (Agitato), for solo violin, Op.1, M.S.25
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1960
[17] Caprice No.5 in A minor (Agitato), for solo violin, Op.1, M.S.25
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1966

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
[1] Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35: I. Allegro moderato (fragments & Cadenza)
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | March 1960
Giorgio Federico Ghedini
[2]-[5] Divertimento in D major (1959/60)
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | October 1960
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
[6]-[8] Violin Concerto No.4 in D major, K.218
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1970
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
[9]-[11] Violin Concerto (No.2) in E minor, Op.64
Recorded: rehearsal | Luzzato’s home, Milano | 1966

[1]   Italian Radio broadcast announce
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
[2]-[4] Violin Sonata (No.2) in F minor, Op.4
[5]   Italian Radio broadcast announce
Robert Schumann
[6]-[9] Violin Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.121 “Große Sonate”
Leonardo Leonardi, piano
Recorded: studio RAI, Milano | 31 January 1979 (broadcast: 9 July 1979)

audio source:  radio masters | radio broadcasts | reel-to-reel tapes
audio preservation:  Wanda Luzzato archive | Gianluca La Villa
producer | audio restoration | mastering:  Emilio Pessina
photographs:  Luzzato private archive
booklet notes:  Gianluca La Villa
text editing:  Ilde Weffort
design:  Emilio Pessina
ADD | Stereo | Mono



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