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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, K526 [22:24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 [24:47]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 [22:15]
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
Peter Katin (piano)
rec. live 24, September 1963, Fairfield Hall, Croydon; 1973, at Campoli’s Southgate home, (Brahms)

Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991) left a reasonably sized discography on the Decca label. I see that these recordings have, within the last month, been reissued in six separate volumes on the Eloquence label. I was fortunate enough to hear him live on one occasion. My parents used to take me to Hallé concerts, and in the early sixties I heard him play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, my introduction to the work, under the baton of Maurice Handford. I was having violin lessons at the time and remember being overwhelmed by the big, rich burnished tone he produced. Not long after I bought his recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir Adrian Boult.

The violinist has been reasonably well-served on CD over the years, with many of his Decca recordings being available on the Beulah label, in addition to a sprinkling on Dutton and Pearl. Nevertheless, his profile hasn't been as high as it should be, in my view. Maybe his forays into light music in the 1930s, with his own salon orchestra, caused some connoisseurs to look down their noses.

The duo partnership between Campoli and Katin lasted from 30 March 1956, when the two performed Beethoven’s Kreutzer in a broadcast, until 1964. Listening to these captivating performances one can fully appreciate why David Tunley titled his biography of the violinist 'The Bel Canto Violin' (Ashgate), such is the beauty and warmth of his tone. The Mozart Sonata is nicely paced and notable for its elegance and grace. The outer movements abound with rhythmic energy and verve. The Andante is an intimate dialogue between the two instruments, whilst the finale is a perpetuum mobile, where I must single out Katin’s immaculately articulated fingerwork. In contrast to the Sonata’s affable good nature, the turbulent character of Beethoven's fateful C minor, Op. 30, No. 2 is striking. The opening movement has a noble quality, whilst the slow movement is wistful and reflective. A sprightly Scherzo follows, with both performers playing with an irresistible delicacy. The brisk finale is restless and uneasy.

The technically challenging Third Sonata of Brahms, unlike his other two sonatas, is cast in four movements, and is larger in scale. It calls for dramatic intent, and this is what it gets here. The players address the stormy narrative with determination and vigour, and there's a compelling cumulative sweep throughout. The exquisite, lyrical slow movement is etched with devotional intensity. Campoli’s living room provides an intimate setting.

The man behind the recordings is Geoffrey Terry, a recording engineer. In 1963 he got the go-ahead to record this lunchtime concert, in the presence of an audience, in the Fairfield Hall Croydon. His method was to employ just two microphones, carefully placed. The result is a completely interventionist-free recording, 'a pure acoustic mirror image of the original performance'. Terry had already worked with the violinist, having made a private recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with a local orchestra in Bromley. In addition to this, he had the opportunity to record the two artists in rehearsal. I would have loved to have heard these. Ten years later, the violinist gave permission for him to tape the Brahms Violin Sonata in his home in Southgate, London. The sound quality in both venues is top notch, with balance between violin and piano ideal. Southgate offers a radiant glow and intimacy which is particularly attractive. All the works constitute a valuable addition to the Campoli discography, as none of this music he recorded commercially.
Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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