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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 Kreutzer [33:20]
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30/2 [27:04]
Rondo in G major for Violin and Piano, WoO 41 [4:15]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Scherzo from Sonatensatz in C minor, Op. posth. from FAE Sonata [5:15]
Max Rostal (violin)
Franz Osborn (piano)
rec. 1949/1952, London

Max Rostal is remembered principally as a pedagogue and rather underrated as a violinist. He did make a number of recordings, and I see that anytime soon the Documents Label are releasing a 10 CD set of his legacy in their no-frills Milestones of a Violin Legend series. Meloclassic have already issued a collection of radio broadcasts, which I had the pleasure of reviewing last year. That 2 CD set includes the Beethoven Op. 30/2 which is featured here.

He was born in Teschen, a town on the Austrian Hungarian border, in 1905. When he was eight, his family relocated to Vienna, enabling him to study with Arnold Rosé, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and leader of the Rosé String Quartet. In 1919 he moved to Vienna to study with Carl Flesch. It was soon evident that he had a natural aptitude for teaching, and from 1930-1933 he taught at the Berlin Hochschule. When the Nazis came to power he moved to London and took up a post at the Guildhall School of Music, which he held from 1944-1958. He then returned to Cologne, where he taught until 1982, concurrently holding a similar position at the Conservatory in Bern, Switzerland. Here he died on August 6, 1991, at the age of 86. Aside from his pedagogical activities, he maintained a solo career, and was an enthusiastic champion of contemporary music. His interpretation of Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto gained admiration in some quarters. He premiered Alan Bush's Concerto in 1949. He also performed works by Bax, Moeran, Stevens, Frankel and Lennox Berkeley.

The performance of the Kreutzer is one of dramatic intensity, sufficiently combative in the opening movement, with both Rostal and Osborn constituting a partnership of equals. The slow movement is poetically moulded. The players invest the finale with sufficient amounts of energy and enthusiasm. Struggle and anguish inform the first movement of the Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor. “Poignant and wistful” just about sums up the Adagio cantabile, and the duo truly capture the mood with playing of deep felt emotion. A crisply animated Scherzo precedes a finale, where the turbulence and strife of the opener make a potent return.

The outer sections of the Brahms Scherzo are not as power-driven as some performances I've heard and, unfortunately, the central section tends to sag a little. The Beethoven Rondo has charm and geniality in full measure, and makes an attractive little filler.

All in all, the digital remastering of these recordings and their appearance on CD add immeasurably to the Rostal discography and as such should be enthusiastically welcomed.

Stephen Greenbank

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