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Jonathan Woolf
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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in A major K526 [22.24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata in C minor Op.30 No.2 [24.47]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor Op.108 [22.15]
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
Peter Katin (piano)
rec. live Fairfield Halls, Croydon, England, 24 September 1963 (Mozart & Beethoven), Campoli's home, Southgate, Enfield, London, c.1973 (Brahms)

Alfredo Campoli and Peter Katin were stars in their day and these three sonatas are performed with absolutely perfect control and unanimity. The sound of Peter Katin's piano reflects his clarity and technical precision - he briefly reminded me of an earlier master of Mozart, Dinu Lipatti. That, in my book, is saying quite something about how impressive he is. Campoli, by contrast, has a more richly phrased approach. Every note is cleanly played of course but he plays in a romantic manner more suited to Brahms than to either Mozart or Beethoven. Of course with a large modern piano, even as subtly handled as this one, the violin has to try harder to compete. The Brahms is not the same challenge for musical balancing. All three are very beautiful to hear but comparing the earlier works with more historically-informed performances, I always prefer the latter.

These recordings come from two sessions several years apart. The Mozart and Beethoven sonatas were recorded at a recital in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon in 1963. The Brahms was a private recording made at Campoli's home in Southgate in 1973. The Fairfield recording is astonishingly quiet considering there would have been a large audience. The piano is recorded firmly in the left channel and the violin equally firmly in the right channel. There is little ambience but everything is completely clear. Both the Mozart and Beethoven would have been described as sonatas for keyboard and violin, with no hint of the violin as a soloist with piano accompaniment. This is how they are recorded. The piano - a modern one, inevitably - is at least as powerfully projected as the violin. The latter is just occasionally almost drowned out by the larger instrument, a simple reflection of reality and another example of the utter fidelity of Geoffrey Terry's recording technique. No attempt whatever has been made to spotlight either instrument; effectively you get what the audience would have heard. The Brahms was recorded in unusual circumstances, in Campoli's home. Both instruments are more closely miked, probably because they had to be, given the domestic space. There is a tiny sense of strain in one or two louder passages as if we are approaching tape saturation. It never actually distorts but it is a hint of a constraint not encountered in a proper concert hall. The background is again completely silent so no postman or milkman chose that moment to arrive at the front door! One or two small imperfections are audible in Campoli's playing of the Brahms indicative of the less public nature of the event.

Those who admire Campoli and Katin should not hesitate to add this very naturally-recorded CD to their collections.

Dave Billinge

Previous reviews: Jonathan Woolf ~ Stephen Greenbank ~ Paul Serotsky

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