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Ruggiero Ricci (violin)
Discovered Tapes: Sonatas
rec. 1952-1984
RHINE CLASSICS RH-013 [285:07]

This is one of three multi-volume releases released to mark the centenary of the birth of Ruggiero Ricci. The others are devoted to showpieces – though it also contains sonatas – to concertos and here to sonatas, though this volume also contains smaller pieces too. Unlike the other volumes this one contains minimal repertoire duplication; only Paganini’s 24th Caprice is heard twice. The recording dates range from 1952 to 1984, and locations from Carnegie Hall through Bern and Saarbrücken to Budapest. As always, Ricci was a busy international soloist.

The first recital was captured in Carnegie Hall on 7˝ ips 2-track mono reel-to-reel by Voice of America. The sound consequently is good for 1952 and I should stress that the sound, though clearly variable given dates and locations, remains fine throughout this series of discs. He is aided by Carlo Bussotti, a most able pianist with expensive tastes in violinists, who was engaged by Szigeti and Milstein in addition to Ricci. The violinist plays the Bartók Sonatina in André Gertler’s arrangement with quivering intensity and then unfolds a contrasting sequence of pieces that largely reveal his predilection for virtuoso fireworks; his Wieniawski, Sarasate and Paganini are all obvious elements of his recital repertoire and are all played with requisite legerdemain though the fast, lithe bowing of Sarasate’s Introduction and tarantella is perhaps the pick of this virtuoso bunch. The Romanian Folk Dances heard in the Swiss Radio recital with Carlo Loebnitz were never taken into the recording studio by Ricci and it’s a valuable function of these sets to encounter such exciting live material otherwise unknown in his discography. He would often perform a small series of Paganini Caprices and they would often centre around 5, 20, 22 and 24. Here he parades 5, 9, 17, 20 and 24 finishing off with Ysa˙e’s solo sonata No.3, the Ballade dedicated to Enescu. His studio recording of this sonata was even faster than this live reading. His Bach Sonata in G minor proves a more perceptive account than the earlier recording of two movements from BWV1003 on the showpieces album. He has a very patchy representation of Beethoven sonatas on disc and never recorded anything like a cycle though he did record two sonatas with Gulda for Decca. The variations in the Op12/1 sonata are well characterised in this performance from 1958 once again with Bussotti. He is fervid in Bloch’s Sonata No.1 – which he didn’t record commercially – vesting the music with considerable tonal intensity, generating a real sense of agitato. These performances are once again Voice of America reel-to-reel monos.

He followed this kind of sequence again in his 1964 recital in Saarbrücken, captured in good stereo, opening with Bach’s Sonata in E major, with Helmuth Barth, and moving on to Brahms’s D minor sonata which he recorded with Katchen. I’ve always slightly preferred his Brahms Concerto to the sonatas, which I don’t invariably find expressively consistent, but this is a good example of Ricci’s sonata art, and perhaps even better is his Prokofiev, which he never did for a record label. There’s real resinous brusco drive here and the performance is also lyrically aware, and never devitalised by complacent phrasing. The three Paganini sonatas derive from a recital given the following day.

The last performance dates from Budapest in 1984. The Bach A minor solo sonata – despite a few minor slips still formidably voiced – is followed by Beethoven’s last violin sonata. It’s surprisingly a bit cool and straightforward, though the ensemble with Ferenc Rados seems competent enough. The peach here is the Saint-Saëns Sonata No.1 because he never otherwise recorded it. It’s not at all Gallic, so forget the shades of Thibaud or Merckel and enjoy instead a combustible and lively reading. Ravel’s Tzigane is powerfully projected and if you turn back to the first disc you’ll find the first encore from this Budapest concert, a spell-binding traversal of Ernst’s famous killer-diller, the Variations on the Last Rose of Summer.

Heard in 24bit 96kHz mastering, this whole series is dedicated to and realized under the auspices of Ricci’s wife Julia and the tapes have been excellently restored by Emilio Pessina. Full track listings can be found in the most attractively produced booklet, which has a fine selection of images of Ricci.

Jonathan Woolf
CD1 | 72:18
Béla Bartók
[1]-[3]  Sonatina, Sz.55 (1915) “Folk Tunes of Transylvania” (arr. André Gertler)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
[4] Souvenir d’un lieu cher, (3) Pieces Op.42 (1878): 2. Scherzo in C minor
Niccolň Paganini
[5] Le streghe (Witches Dance), Op.8 / M.S. 19 (1813) (arr. Fritz Kreisler)
Henryk Wieniawski
[6] Polonaise No.1 ‘Brillante’ in D major, Op.4 (1852)
Francesco Maria Veracini
[7] Largo (arr. Mario Corti)
Niccolň Paganini
[8] Caprice No.17 in E-flat major, Op.1 (Sostenuto – Andante)
Pablo de Sarasate
[9] Introduction et Tarantelle, Op.43 (1899)
Niccolň Paganini
[10] Caprice No.14 in E-flat major, for solo violin, Op.1 (Moderato)
Carlo Bussotti, piano
recorded: live | Carnegie Hall, New York | 15 January 1952 | original master
Béla Bartók
[11]-[16] Romanian Folk Dances (6), Sz.56 (1915) (arr. Zoltan Székely)
Niccolň Paganini
[17]-[21] Caprices (24) for solo violin, Op.1 / M.S. 25 : Nos. 5, 9, 17, 20, 24
Eugčne Ysa˙e
[22]Violin solo Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.27/3 “Ballade” (1923) -to G.Enescu-
Carlo Loebnitz, piano
recorded: studio | Swiss Radio, Bern | 1 April 1960 | original master
Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst
[23] «Polyphonic Studies» (6), for solo violin (1864): 6. “The last rose of summer”
recorded: live | Grand Hall, Music Academy, Budapest | 24 May 1984 | original master, stereo
(first encore from the Budapest recital on CD4)
CD2 | 63:16
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1]-[4] Violin solo Sonata No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001
Ludwig van Beethoven
[5]-[7] Violin Sonata No.1 in D major, Op.12/1
Ernest Bloch
[8]-[10] Violin Sonata No.1 (1920)
Carlo Bussotti, piano
recorded: live | Carnegie Hall, New York | 22 January 1958 | original master
CD3 | 72:47
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1]-[4] Violin Sonata No.3 in E major, BWV 1016
Johannes Brahms
[5]-[8] Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.108 (1886/88)
Sergei Prokofiev
[9]-[12] Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op.80 (1938/46)
Niccolň Paganini
[13]-[15]Caprices (24) for solo violin, Op.1 / M.S. 25 : Nos. 16, 17, 24 *
Helmuth Barth, piano
recorded: studio | Funkhaus am Halberg, Saarbrücken | 5 & 6* March 1964 | broadcast, stereo
CD4 | 76:46
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1]-[4] Violin solo Sonata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003
Ludwig van Beethoven
[5]-[8] Violin Sonata No.10 in G major, Op.96 (1812)
Camille Saint-Saëns
[9]-[12] Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor, Op.75 (1885)
Maurice Ravel
[13]Tzigane “Rhapsodie de concert”, M.76 (1924)
Maria Theresia von Paradis
[14]Sicilienne, for violin and piano (arr. Samuel Dushkin)
Ferenc Rados, piano
recorded: live | Grand Hall, Music Academy, Budapest | 24 May 1984 | original master, stereo



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