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Edith Peinemann (violin)
The SWR Studio Recordings
rec. 1952-1965
SWR MUSIC SWR19074CD [5 CDs: 335:00]

This set presents the SWR studio recordings – concertos and chamber music – of the German violinist Edith Peinemann, made between 1952 and 1965. The layout roughly follows the chronology.

Edith Peinemann, daughter of a concert master, was born in Mainz in 1937. She became an overnight celebrity after she won the 1956 ARD International Music Competition in Munich, performing concertos by Sibelius and Bartók, in addition to some solo Bach. Early on she had been hailed as “a second Ginette Neveu” by Wolfgang Schneiderhan, who had offered to teach her. Her father Robert had other ideas, however, and sent her to Heinz Stanske in Heidelberg. In 1953 she travelled to London to study with Max Rostal. In 1962 she made her first US tour. She so impressed George Szell that he used his influence to secure a magnificent 1732 Guarneri del Gesů, which became a constant companion from 1964; she later purchased it. Once her career was launched, she travelled the globe giving concerts. Her later years have been devoted to teaching and giving masterclasses. The recordings in this collection showcase several fine instruments which came into her possession: a Fieker, a Daniel Parker (1720) and that 1732 Guarneri.

For me, one of the highlights of the set is Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, recorded in December 1957. The violinist is partnered by the SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden under Hans Rosbaud. Peinemann’s tone projects vibrant intensity and this, paired with a wide variance in tonal colour, sits well. Her vision of the work, fusing passion and drama with haunting lyricism, makes it one of the finest readings I have ever heard. Interestingly, the only bit of film footage of the violinist I have ever managed to find is a 2-minute sequence of a rehearsal of this concerto from 1966 with Pietro Argento on the Meloclassic Facebook page. With the same forces, Peinemann performs Hans Pfitzner’s Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 34 (1924). Although programmed very rarely today, it has seen a few recordings over the years. This airing is dated December 1962. Although there are breaks between the three movements on this recording, the concerto was conceived as a single-movement, three-section work. Peinemann contours the ebb and flow of this late-Romantic score with alacrity. She is very much at home with it, and this comes hardly as a surprise, as the concerto featured prominently in her repertoire throughout her career. The finale is especially well done. The attractive dance rhythms are delivered with carefree insouciance.

We also have two concertos which were not only staples of Peinemann’s performing repertoire but which she recorded commercially. The Dvořák Concerto was a great favorite that she played many times. In 1966, she chose it for her Deutsche Grammophon debut recording with the Czech Philharmonic under Peter Maag. The earlier traversal here is from Stuttgart 1958 with Hans Müller-Kray at the helm of the Sinfonieorchester des Suddeutschen Rundfunks. I much prefer it to the later DG. It has greater spontaneity, is more free-flowing and less prosaic. In the finale, especially, she is more daring, throwing all caution to the wind. Added to this, Müller-Kray is far more sympathetic than Maag. The Sibelius Concerto was one of the works which impressed the judges at the 1956 ARD International Music Competition in Munich. Almost ten years later, she recorded it with the SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden and Ernest Bour. The performance disappoints. Her tone sounds thin and is robbed of its usual burnished quality. Also, I find her colouristic range reduced to monochrome. There is a general lack of ruggedness and drama, partly the fault of Bour whose conducting is lifeless and lethargic, especially in the opening movement. There is a far better performance of the Concerto from 1967 with Joseph Keilberth and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (Weitblick). Keilberth seems to inspire the violinist to greater things, with a reading of greater visceral impact.

The solo Bach is unfussy and unmannered, and Peinemann’s intonation is pristine. Contrapuntal lines are cleanly negotiated, double stops smooth and unobtrusive. Beethoven’s C Minor Sonata has sufficient weight and profundity, with the darker elements dramatically profiled. The beautiful Adagio cantabile is pensive and wistful, whilst the turbulence and strife in the finale is resolute. The Franck Sonata is full of ardour, and imbued with febrile intensity. The Recitativo. Fantasia-ben moderato evolves on the wing, and the finale is exultant and exuberant. The excellent pianist is Heinrich Baumgartner. In December 1962 in Mainz, Maria Bergmann partnered Peinemann in a refined and incandescent reading of Mozart’s K. 378. Schumann’s First Sonata in A minor from the same session is impassioned, with a wonderfully poetic sense of line, capturing the work’s many fleeting moods.

Peinemann also offers some less familiar repertoire. Max Reger’s Suite in A minor, Op. 103a, titles its six movements – Praeludium, Gavotte, Aria, Burleske, Menuett, and Gigue – despite this it s not one of the composer’s works “in the olden style”. I find it delightful, heard here in a convincing performance. Suk’s Four Pieces, Op. 17 (1900) are also not that well known, though they were recorded by Ginette Neveu. There is a melancholic Un poco triste (3) of aching beauty, and a rhythmically energetic Burleska, calling time on proceedings.

Sound quality is excellent throughout.

Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [71:05]
Tomaso Antonio Vitali
Chaconne g minor [9:52][
Georg Friedrich Händel
Sonata E major for Violin and Piano [9:36]
Max Reger
Suite op. 103a [21:54]
Paul Hindemith
Meditation for Violin and Piano [3:47]
César Franck
Sonata A major for Violin and Piano [25:46]

CD 2 [71:49]
Johann Sebastian Bach
Sonata No. 1 g minor BWV 1001 for Violin solo [15:31]
Sonata minor BWV 1023 [10:20]
Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata No. 7 c minor op. 30 No. 2 for Violin and Piano [25:58]
Béla Bartók
Rhapsody No. 1 Sz 86 for Violin and Piano [9:55]
Maurice Ravel
Tzigane – Rhapsody for Violin and Piano [9:58]

CD 3 [53:22]
Maurice Ravel
Pičce en forme de Habanera [2:50]
Josef Suk
Four Pieces op. 17 for Violin and Piano [16:40]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sonata B flat major K 378 K 317d for Violin and Piano [16:18]
Robert Schumann
Sonata No. 1 a minor op. 105 for Violin and Piano [17:28]

CD 4 [73:40]
Antonín Dvořák
Concerto a minor op. 53 B. 108 [33:37]
Béla Bartók
Violin Concerto No. 2 Sz 112 for Violin and Orchestra [39:58]

CD 5 [65:06]
Hans Pfitzner
Concerto b minor op. 34 for Violin and Orchestra [32:14]
Jean Sibelius
Violin Concerto d minor op. 47 for Violin and Orchestra [32:47]
Participating artists

Edith Peinemann (violin)
Robert Peinemann (piano)
Heinrich Baumgartner (piano)
Helmut Barth (piano)
Maria Bergmann (piano)
Georg Toussaint (harpsichord)
Hartmut Oesterle (cello)
Sinfonieorchester des Suddeutschen Rundfunks
SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden
Hans Muller-Kray (conductor)
Hans Rosbaud (conductor)
Ernest Bour (conductor)

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