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Jonathan Woolf
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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op.64 (1844) [28:02]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Grand Duo for Violin and Piano in A Major, D574 (1817) [22:21]
Violin Sonata in A minor, Op. post.137 No.2, D385 (1816) [20:36]
Franco Gulli (violin)
Enrica Cavallo (piano)
Orchestra of the Fenice Theatre Venice/Ettore Gracis
rec. 1956 (Schubert), 1959 (Mendelssohn)

My last encounter with the subtle art of Franco Gulli came in First Hand’s expert restorations of the backward-looking but very lyrical concertos of Alberto Curci (see review). Gulli lavished his artful musicianship in a good cause in the case of those little-known works but in this restoration he is on much more familiar ground because Forgotten Records has disinterred Mendelssohn and Schubert stereo LPs made between 1956 and 1959.

Accompanied by Ettore Gracis and the Venetian orchestra in Mendelssohn, Gulli proves a most sympathetic soloist. His tight, focused and sweet tone with its rather unvaried vibrato is well suited to the repertoire. He brings elegance and a bel canto element in this phrasing – he always ensures that the line is sufficiently elastic but never falls prey to indulgence – and if his art is not as predicated on the singer’s as was, say, his great Italian colleague, Aldo Ferraresi, it was always convincingly lyrical. His cadenza is notably fine here and the affectionate warmth of the slow movement is unhurried and generous though never tonally glutinous or indulgent. Refinement is a given with Gulli. Though not pressed, the finale is rhythmically well-sprung and consonant with the performance throughout. There’s a maturity to this kind of performance that keeps the ear permanently engaged and if the orchestra can’t match him for sophistication there’s pleasure enough listening to the soloist.

In the Schubert works, recorded in 1956, he’s accompanied by his wife, Enrica Cavallo. The Grand Duo exhibits rock solid ensemble virtues, pliancy of phrasing and alluring musicianship, well recorded. The sublimated ardency of the Andantino reveals the duo’s aristocratic virtues, whilst the Andantino shows their relaxed repartee and nonchalant wit. The Sonata – or Sonatina, depending on your preference, D385 - is elegantly done and not over projected, but stylistically apt and with a similarly apt quotient of bow pressure.

These performances were originally released on different LPs by Le Club Franšais du Disque and by Musidisc but their coupling here is useful. Clearly, as with almost all FR’s discs, the market for this is small and specialised but it’s no less valuable for all that especially when so well transferred as here. No notes, as usual.

Jonathan Woolf



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