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Jonathan Woolf
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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto (1940) [29:26]
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Humoresque Op.101 No.7 [3:26]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
String Quartet No.1, Op.11 – Andante cantabile (arr. violin and piano) [5:11]
František DRDLA (1868-1944)
Souvenir [3:10]
Londonderry Air arr Fritz Kreisler [3:40]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Thaďs: Act II; Méditation [4:19]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kinderszenen, Op.15: Träumerei [2:39]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Le Coq d’Or: Act II Hymne au Soleil (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [4:26]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria arr. August Wilhelmj [4:20]
Louis Kaufman (violin)
Paul Ulanowsky (piano)
Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra/Jacques Rachmilovich
rec. Los Angeles, 1945 (Khachaturian) and 1952, Paris (remainder)

None of these recordings is new to CD. The Khachaturian Concerto derives from a Concert Hall LP whilst the recital was released by Capitol. The exponent is Louis Kaufman, a favourite in Forgotten Records’ stable of reissue artists, and one whose discs I have repeatedly reviewed.

The Khachaturian has seen previous service on silver disc, notably on Cambria CD1063 where it was valuably coupled with Martinů’s Second Concerto along with three other items here, the Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Londonderry Air. The Concert Hall recording was always a desperately airless and cramped 1945 mono. It didn’t flatter the then newly formed Santa Monica Symphony, which nevertheless does its best, but Kaufman can be heard in all his gleaming, glistening romanticist ardour. He and Jacques Rachmilovich take the concerto at a velocity that makes one wonder whether it was taken down at the wrong speed. Of course not, but they take the kind of tempo that would have made Oistrakh and Kogan (both with the composer conducting) and Yulian Sitkovetsky, the work’s best champions, choke on their cornflakes. What it would have done to the venerable Mischa Elman, who recorded it in Vienna, hardly bears thinking about. There’s no doubting the vibrancy and tonal splendour of the solo playing - the sostenuto element of the Andante is especially rewarding – but the blistering speed of it all tends to blur the corners.

Kaufman’s accompanist for his disc of sweetmeats was Paul Ulanowsky. Together they glide through a largely undemanding and predictable portfolio of fiddle favourites, vesting all their artful richness on the repertoire. The studio may be dry and somewhat unsympathetic, but the playing is anything but. The Dvořák Humoresque is the acme of romantic generosity whilst Kaufman’s fast, infinitely varied vibrato is on show in the Tchaikovsky Andante cantabile arrangement – beguiling tonal shading indeed. The lyrically animated B section of Drdla’s Souvenir proves there’s life in this old favourite yet, whilst the Londonderry Air doesn’t linger unduly but is still emotively communicative. Many of his luscious arsenal of slides can be heard in the Thaďs Méditation, whilst the Rimsky-Kreisler Hymne au Soleil is especially richly vibrated and there’s an envoi in the form of an ardent Ave Maria.

There are no notes, just internet links, but the recordings are just and true; the transfer can’t work miracles on the Khachaturian. Kaufman admirers will enjoy this seductive bipartite disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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