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Support us financially by purchasing these from
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

Alfredo Campoli – The Bel Canto Violin
Volumes 1-6
rec. 1948-1978
Volumes available separately
ELOQUENCE 4825135/43/51/59/71/75 [12 CDs: 761:46]

Fortunately, we’ve not been starved of Campoli reissues over the years. Various companies, Decca obviously prominent amongst them – others include Pearl, Beulah and Dutton – have restored his many recordings (and re-recordings) to the catalogue. But now Eloquence presents no fewer than six twofers that gather a swathe of his discography. In doing so they may well give Campoli collectors a dilemma or two. I’ve reviewed a number of these performances, sometimes at great length in other reviews, so the links here will be to those reviews where matters are discussed in greater detail.
The first dilemma arises in the first volume. The first disc contains his 1948 78rpm set of Bach’s Partita in D minor, the one ending in the Chaconne. It adds two sonatas by Tartini – the Devil’s Trill, inevitably, and ‘Didone abbandonata’. The second disc is devoted to the set of Handel sonatas he recorded with George Malcolm – a set that has been issued by Testament (SBT 1358) which included the Chaconne (only) from the Partita as a kind of bonne bouche. Those who snapped up the Testament, as I did, may well furrow a brow at this point. The Bach, which also appeared incongruously coupled to Bruch’s G minor on LP in 1951, is played in quite a ripe fashion, and the over-vibration vests the Chaconne in particular with a somewhat less than buoyant sense of direction. It’s good to encounter George Malcolm’s pianism in the Tartini sonatas – strong, songful, vibrant-toned examples of Campoli’s art. The Handel Sonatas, with Malcolm now playing the harpsichord, glow with vivid commitment to the cause of Romanticism in Baroque string music. Campoli’s finger position changes and expressive Italianate playing is fully burnished. The tension never sags in the opening of the F major (Op.1 No.12) as it often can. With rich cantilena and buoyant fast movements, clear articulation and artful singing tone, this is a splendid, very individual set of the sonatas.

Volume two presents a quartet of concertos with the footnote that the Mendelssohn is heard twice. The earlier recording is with van Beinum and the LPO in 1949. The watchwords of Campoli’s Mendelssohn are purity and sweetness of tone and intonation and a selfless and unhurried generosity of music making. Campoli takes care over precise articulation and bowing, and his lyricism is accompanied by a warm-hearted aesthetic. There’s no undue pressure in the finale but equally no sense that this is undernourished or lacking bravura, when called upon. Van Beinum brings some fine architectural support – especially good with the lower strings in the tuttis. The later recording in 1958 ‘binaural’ was no less admired. Boult, that distinguished accompanist, was on hand once again with the LPO. Campoli’s tone is still deliciously sweet and he has typically interesting ideas in the passagework - especially in the first movement cadenza, which if you’re unfamiliar with his way with it, you should certainly hear. As ever the slow movement is the heart of things, with affectionate lyricism always to the fore. Perhaps the orchestra is a touch too recessed for a full and expansive engagement with the solo line but it doesn’t really matter. The finale is poised, fluent and fleet - but not flashily so (review).

For the Bruch G minor he was teamed with the New Symphony Orchestra and Royalton Kisch in 1951. There’s a bit of pre-echo in the tapes but it’s not obtrusive. This is a rich, warm sympathetic reading and is the second of his performances of it; interesting comparisons can be made with the 1937 reading on 78s with Walter Goehr directing an anonymous band, which was on Gemm CD 9151 and is noticeably faster. The final concerto is the summit, Beethoven’s, where Decca had the foresight to team him with Josef Krips and the LSO. He plays the Kreisler cadenzas (I know some people are distraught when cadenza details are omitted). This is a balanced, sane and attractive reading and largely superior to the remake Campoli made with John Pritchard and the RPO for HMV which, for some reason, didn’t quite come together.

Violin Encores make up the third volume of twofers. All items have the polished and attractive accompaniments of Eric Gritton. To commemorate Fritz Kreisler’s 80th birthday in 1955 Decca turned to Campoli to record an album of Kreisler favourites and bon bons. The two fiddle players had first met in London but in 1952 when Campoli had undertaken his first American tour they met again and over lunch discussed Campoli’s projected re-recording of the Paganini-Kreisler first Violin Concerto – maybe they also discussed the composition of a tribute album which, in the event, is fairly standard Kreisler fare. These are in the second disc of the twofer. Campoli’s Kreislerian aesthetic is, in general, sweet toned, reflective, unassertive and affectionate. He prefers tempos bordering on the sedate, seldom over inflates the melodic line with faux-sentimentality and largely resists pouring rich tonal sauce where it’s unnecessary (see review for a much fuller review). The first disc contains a more cosmopolitan selection of items, old school favourites that wouldn’t have been out of place in a travelling virtuoso’s repertoire three decades before. The three pieces Kreisler arranged from Dohnányi’s Ruralia Hungarica are played with buoyant energy and tart, exciting zest, and with honeyed lyricism in the case of the slow movement. Once again George Malcolm is to hand here as he is in the Paganini pieces with inevitably anachronistic piano writing in the Caprices. With Gritton once again, the confections by Fibich, Ponce, Drdla and the like offer one silken or vibrant pleasure after another. He’s not as lithe as Heifetz in Ponce’s Estrelita, proves himself to be very much the Old Master to Grumiaux’s streamlined modernist in Fiocco’s Allegro movement and is richly communicative in Mendelssohn, Drigo and in the Americana that ends the disc – Samuel Gardner’s From the Canebrake, Deep River and Old Folks at Home.

Volume 4 leads with the Tchaikovsky Concerto, recorded with Argenta and the LSO. This has also been reissued a few times and you can even find it today on 180g LP. Excellently balanced in Kingsway Hall – like all the examples in this twofer – the performance is full of colour and charm and no little virtuosity; the felicities of bowing are always a joy to hear and Campoli’s penchant for bel canto cantabile is a constituent component of the slow movement. The Lalo Symphonie espanogle is complete with the Intermezzo and another LPO/Beinum partnership. It’s also one of Campoli’s very best recordings with the performer perfectly suited to the work, the result sounding very different from performances by given by French players such as Merckel, Francescatti and Grumiaux (who omitted the Intermezzo) but full of glowing, communicative warmth. In Campoli’s hands Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is no mere pyrotechnic vehicle. The two Saint-Saëns warhorses were recorded in 1953 with Fistoulari on hand. They get a rather over-bright recording but the playing has polish, freshness and they both suit the violinist’s extrovert temperament nicely. The same composer’s Third Concerto, whose long, lyrical lines are also especially well suited to Campoli’s singing vibrancy and sweet tone, are equally recommendable, not least when Piero Gamba is on the rostrum: the brass chorale in the finale sounds memorable here. Gamba also directs the one-movement Kreisler version of Paganini’s D major Concerto. Campoli had given the first London performance of this in 1938 (Kreisler had published it two years previously) and made his first recording of it on 78s in June 1946 with the New Symphony and Victor Olof (it’s on Dutton). The LP performance is more expansive than the 78 set but just as compelling.
Volume five contains concertos by Elgar (review), Bliss - plus the Theme and Cadenza for violin and orchestra - (review) and Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia (review).
The final volume is a recital sequence with accompaniments from both Daphne Ibbott and Norihiko Wada. The major works are the eight Sarasate Danzas Españolas recorded when Campoli was 70. Maybe the tone has very slightly thinned and no longer has quite the richness of his heyday in the 1950s, but his phrasing is impeccably lyric resulting in a set of stylish and apt performances, with impeccable intonation. It’s especially valuable to hear him play Vito, the least encountered of a set dominated by the luscious bravura of Malagueña, Habanera and Zapateado. Belinda Blunt joins Campoli for a marvelously well integrated reading of Navarra, for two violins. His last recording, recorded during 1978 when he was 72 and issued in June 1980, was devoted to Wieniawski. The whistling insouciance of the Souvenir de Moscou shows that he left the world of studio recording on a high and if some of the other pieces glow with slightly less wattage than performances by younger players of his time, nothing dims the stylishness of Campoli’s playing. The Wada-accompanied items come from a 1971 album. The acoustic is now much more resonant and veiling. I admired the expressive playing in the Albeniz Tango and the first of the Japanese pieces, Yamada’s Akatonbo, with its episodes of skittishness and stateliness. Elsewhere in these well-known pieces Campoli is lyrical and affecting and whilst Wada is somewhat recessed in the balance we can hear Campoli’s Bach-Franko Arioso in all its unforced eloquence, very much a quality I would attribute to his playing in general. The three Paganini pieces – the two Caprices and La Campanella – are remakes of the same pieces he’d recorded years earlier with Gritton and which can be found in volume three.
Campoli’s biographer David Tunley is on hand to write the welcome notes for each volume and the remastering is excellent. All told there are twelve and a half hours of Campoli in these six twofers. You may want to pick and choose given their appearance in the past, but they make for a fine set in their uniform look, each one sporting a different picture of the violinist, from his eager youth to his pipe-smoking old age.
Jonathan Woolf


ELOQUENCE 482 5175 [50:23 + 58:59]
Volume 1
Johann Sebastian BACH
Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004
Giuseppe TARTINI
Sonata in G minor for Violin and Continuo ‘The Devil’s Trill’
Sonata in G minor, Op. 1 No. 10 ‘Didone abbandonata’
CD 2 
Georg Frideric HANDEL
Violin Sonata in A major, HWV 361 (Op. 1 No. 3)
Violin Sonata in G minor, HWV 368 (Op. 1 No. 10)
Violin Sonata in F major, HWV 370 (Op. 1 No. 12)
Violin Sonata in D major, HWV 371 (Op. 1 No. 13)
Violin Sonata in A major, HWV 372 (Op. 1 No. 14)
Violin Sonata in E major, HWV 373 (Op. 1 No. 15)
George Malcolm, piano (Tartini), harpsichord (Handel)
rec. Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 27 September 1948 (Bach), 18–19 May 1954 and 24 March 1955 (Tartini), 28 & 30 July 1952 (Handel)

ELOQUENCE 482 5171 [53:26 + 70:38]
Volume 2
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
New Symphony Orchestra/Royalton Kisch
CD 2 
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
London Symphony Orchestra/Josef Krips
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 2 May 1949 (Mendelssohn / Van Beinum), 17 April 1951 (Bruch), 17 December 1951 and 2–4 January 1952 (Beethoven), 6–8 May 1958 (Mendelssohn / Boult)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 5159 [64:22 + 48:38]
Volume 3
CD 1
1–3 DOHNÁNYI Three Pieces from ‘Ruralia Hungarica’
4 PAGANINI Caprice No. 13
5 PAGANINI Caprice No. 20
6 PAGANINI La Campanella, Op. 7
7 FIBICH Poème, Op. 41 No. 14
8 PONCE Estrellita
9 DRDLA Souvenir
10 FIOCCO Allegro
12 ALBÉNIZ Tango
13 HEUBERGER Midnight Bells
14 MENDELSSOHN Auf flügeln des Gesanges
15 DRIGO Valse bluette
16 ELGAR La Capricieuse
17 GARDNER From the Canebrake
18 ANONYMOUS Deep River (Negro Spiritual)
19 DEBUSSY Minstrels
20 FOSTER Old Folks at home
CD 2
1 KREISLER Praeludium and Allegro
2 KREISLER Liebesleid
3 KREISLER Liebesfreud
4 KREISLER Polichinelle (Sérénade)
5 KREISLER Schön Rosmarin
6 KREISLER Caprice viennois, Op. 2
7 KREISLER Tambourin chinois
8 PADEREWSKI Menuet célèbre
9 WIENIAWSKI Caprice in E flat major
10 WIENIAWSKI Caprice in A minor
11 KREISLER Rondino on a theme by Beethoven
12 KREISLER La Chasse
13 KREISLER La Gitana
14 GRANADOS Spanish Dance, Op. 37 No. 5 ‘Andaluza’
15 TARTINI Variations on a theme of Corelli
George Malcolm, piano (CD1: 1–6)
Eric Gritton, piano (CD1: 7–20, CD2)
rec. Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 9 April 1953 (CD1: 1–6), 4–5 October 1954 (CD2), 4–5 October and 10 December 1954 (CD1: 7–13), 18 January 1956 (CD1: 14–20)

DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 5151 [75:48 + 73:13]
Volume 4
CD 1 
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
London Symphony Orchestra/Ataúlfo Argenta
Edouard LALO
Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op. 21
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
London Symphony Orchestra/Piero Gamba
CD 2 
Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28
Havanaise, Op. 83*
London Symphony Orchestra/Anatole Fistoulari
Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61
Légende, Op. 17
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6 arr. in one movement by Fritz Kreisler
London Symphony Orchestra/Piero Gamba
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 27–28 December 1956, 3–4 March 1953 (Lalo), 22–23 October 1956 (Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3, Paganini–Kreisler), 25–26 October 1956 (Sarasate, Wieniawski), 10 November 1953 (Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Havanaise)

DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 5143 [70:03 + 44:01]
Volume 5
CD 1 
Edward ELGAR
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46
CD 2 
Arthur BLISS
Violin Concerto, F.111
Theme and cadenza for Violin and Orchestra, F.120
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (CD1)/Arthur Bliss (CD2)
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 28–29 October 1954 (Elgar), 9–11 November 1955 (Bliss), 6–8 May 1958 (Bruch)

DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 5135 [72:15 + 80:02]
Volume 6
CD 1 
1–8 Eight Danzas Españolas
9 Navarra for two violins, Op. 33 (with Belinda Bunt, violin II)
10 ALBENIZ Tango (arr. Dushkin)
11 BRAHMS Waltz in A flat major, Op. 39 No. 15
12 J.S. BACH Arioso (from Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1056, arr. Franco)
13 SCHUBERT Ave Maria
14 YAMADA Akatonbo (Red dragonfly) (arr. Campoli)
15 YAMADA Jogashima no ame (The Rain on Jogashima) (arr. Campoli)
CD 2
MOZART Rondo (Allegro) (from ‘Haffner’ Serenade, arr. Kreisler)
PAGANINI La Campanella, Op. 7 (arr. Kreisler)*
PAGANINI Caprice in B flat major, Op. 1 No. 13 (arr. Kreisler)*
PAGANINI Caprice in D major, Op. 1 No. 20 (arr. Kreisler)*
BAZZINI La Ronde des Lutins: scherzo fantastique, Op. 25*
6 Polonaise No. 1 in D major, Op. 4*
7 Légende, Op. 17*
8 Mazurka, Op. 19 No. 1: Obertass*
9 Mazurka, Op. 19 No. 2: Dudziarz*
10 Souvenir de Moscou, Op. 6*
11 Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16
12 Romance (from Violin Concerto No. 2) *
13 Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7*
14 Polonaise brillante, Op. 21*
Daphne Ibbott, piano (CD1: 1–9, CD2: 6–14)
Norihiko Wada, piano (CD1: 10–15, CD2: 1–5)
rec. Rosslyn Hill Chapel, London, UK, 8–9 November 1976 (Sarasate), 9–11 August 1978 (Wieniawski); Japan, c.1966 (Encores: CD1: 10–15, CD2: 1–5)

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