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Jonathan Woolf
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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)
rec. 1947-49

Here are four twentieth century works played by the American violinist Louis Kaufman (1905-1994). His recording career was prolific by any standards and, aside from his classical discography, he can be heard on the soundtracks of numerous films. Hollywood film makers were enchanted and intoxicated by his richly-coloured and opulent tone, topped off with lavish helpings of sensuous, expressive portamenti. I don’t think this approach suited everything he turned his hand to, but it certainly serves the music on this disc well. The recordings were set down between 1947-1949. All derive from Concert Hall LPs, and pristine copies at that, judging from the sound quality of these clean transfers. 

I first became acquainted with the Delius Violin Sonatas on a recording made by Yehudi Menuhin, partnered by the composer’s amanuensis Eric Fenby. I always felt that Menuhin’s highly individual sound suited the music. Kaufman’s tone is similarly engaging in the Delius First Sonata and conveys the work’s lyrical, wistful and rhapsodic qualities, with Theodore Saidenberg offering sympathetic support. The two artists also join forces for Robert Russell Bennett’s A Song Sonata, a work completely new to me. In five short movements, the first is a charming conversation between violin and piano, whilst the second adopts a more confrontational tone. Kaufman invests the lyrical third with some of his trademark suave expressive slides. The fourth movement’s insistent dance rhythms contrast strikingly with the elegant finale. Kaufman made another recording of this work with his wife Annette as late as 1978. 

Polish pianist Artur Balsam collaborates with Kaufman in the other two sonatas. The duo worked together frequently. Some of their efforts can be found on an excellent ‘twofer’ from Bridge (9225A/B) which contains music by Chausson and Dvořák. They also recorded the Poulenc Sonata. The Quincy Porter Second Sonata I'm familiar with from a recording by the violinist Rafael Druian and John Simms. The music is tonally based, with two outer animated movements framing a luscious middle movement, which Kaufman eloquently portrays.

The Brazilian composer Camargo Guarneri has escaped my notice until now. He lived in the shadow of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and like his illustrious predecessor his music is attractive and tuneful. He wrote seven violin sonatas in all, and here we have No. 2. It conforms to the three movement fast-slow-fast pattern and, once again, it’s the central slow movement which particularly attracts me. Guarneri marks it ‘Profoundly warm’, and Kaufman’s rich burnished tone contours the long melodic lines with beguiling warmth.

If you’re looking for something off-the-beaten track, the music on this release will hopefully meet your needs.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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