Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Violin Sonata No.1 (1914) [17:02]
Robert Russell BENNETT (1894-1981)
A Song Sonata (1927) [15:56]
Quincy PORTER (1897-1966)
Violin Sonata No.2 (1929) [15:36]
Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)
Violin Sonata No.2 (1947) [16:05]
Louis Kaufmann (violin)
Theodore Saidenberg (piano: Delius, Bennett)
Artur Balsam (piano: Porter, Guarnieri)
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1284 [64:43]
The consummate tonalist Louis Kaufman was a regular studio artist throughout his long career and the four items here were recorded between 1947 and 1949. There are two North American works, one from south of the border and one from the cosmopolitan Delius.
Delius’s First Sonata was making only its second appearance on disc after the pioneering 78rpm set of May Harrison and Arnold Bax (Albert Sammons and Evlyn Howard-Jones’ recording was never issued at the time and only surfaced a few years ago on Dutton CD). The fine accompanist Theodore Saidenberg is set a little too far back in the acoustic stage and his treble is rendered rather watery by the Concert Hall engineer. Otherwise things are set fair for as voluptuary and ultra-romantic a performance as this or indeed any Delius work can have received. The vivid succulence of Kaufman’s playing; a fervid filmic intensity of expression, is both magnificent and somewhat unrelieved. Leaving aside a bad side join at 4:03 – the fault of the original team, not in any way reflective of Forgotten Records’ fine restoration - one’s ear is titillated by a battery of expressive heightening at a tempo very similar to the Harrison/Bax; though one could never confuse May Harrison’s refined, Gallically-oriented muse with Kaufman’s. So, this is magnificent playing, without question, though playing that’s so high-octane that it’s not always quite sympathetic to the ethos.
If the relentlessness of Kaufman’s identification with the Delius can be somewhat problematic – it can lack for light and shade – no such strictures apply to Robert Russell Bennett’s A Song Sonata, recorded at around the same time as the Delius, with Saidenberg again. Kaufman was to re-record this many years later with his wife, Annette. The playing in 1947 is full of easy-going charm with warmth and incident bringing the music to life in the most delightful of ways. There’s vehemence and wit in the Scherzo and a sure expressive cantilena in the slow movement, where his gorgeous, rich vibrato comes to the fore. The instruction of the final movement (‘Gracefully strolling’) is perfectly realised by the duo. Quincy Porter was another composer Kaufman promoted and this recording of the Violin Sonata No.2 is outstanding. Exciting and lyrical, Porter sounds here like a kind of American Turina. Artur Balsam adds lustre to the proceedings, Kaufman’s lulling and irradiating tone exuding honeyed warmth in the central movement. The final sonata in this quartet of sonatas is that of Camargo Guarnieri. It shares with at least two of its companion works a marked athleticism and melodic impulse. The swaying ‘Profoundly warm’ slow movement leads onto the vitalising rhythmic hijinks of the Allegro finale.
I’ve not come across a prior transfer of the Delius but both the Bennett and Guarnieri were on Cambria CD1078 and the Porter was previously transferred on Music and Arts. Forgotten Records’ transfer of the Bennett is effortlessly superior to the Cambria but the Guarnieri seems to have been something of a watery original as neither transfer can make it sound better than it is. This transfer of the Porter is also much more open and less filtered than the Music and Arts. The Delius transfer is from a Concert Hall LP dub from the 78rpm original. I’ve got the 78 and this transfer is a fine one. Indeed, altogether this is a well-realised and suitably whole-hearted tribute to Kaufman.