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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 (1844) [27:42]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 (1878) [33:19]
Bronislav Gimpel (violin)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Schüler
rec. c. 1961, Bamberg

Bronislav Gimpel recorded some of the major violin repertoire but not nearly as much as his great talent deserved. He was one of the elect, a true romanticist, and a tonalist of beguiling colour and warmth. It’s fortunate that some of his discs have kept a place in the market, such as the twofer containing his Bruch, Goldmark, Dvořák and orchestrally-accompanied Kreisler on Vox and that Audite and Meloclassic have also released examples of his superb artistry. He recorded seemingly in clusters, and these two concerto examples, provisionally dated to c 1961, come after fitful studio visits in the 50s.

He was teamed with Johannes Schüler and the Bamberg Symphony for the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos, and they were released on Pacific and on Opera – hardly prestige labels. Yet, as one would expect from Gimpel, the results are consistently exciting. Meloclassic’s broadcast of the Mendelssohn with Solti from Stuttgart in 1957 is not too dissimilar to this Bamberg one but there is greater spatial clarity between soloist and orchestra in the studio recording and a slightly more sympathetic-sounding rapport between soloist and conductor. There is ardour in the reading, though the music’s classicism is never subverted by any excess weight or by unwanted gestures. Gimpel’s tonal armoury is complete, he plays the first movement’s cadential section beautifully, he is rhythmically alive (as an ex-concertmaster and leading chamber player should be), possesses something of Kreisler’s parlando bowing in the slow movement, and brings wit and flair to the finale. The Bamberg orchestra, then still largely consisting of players from the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1946, plays with sympathy and personality – the winds in particular who had clearly imbibed their Czech colleagues’ very personal qualities. The recording allows one to hear the soloist’s line throughout the finale, whereas it’s so often submerged in orchestral density.

The Tchaikovsky is just as good. His deft, quick slides are musical rather than sleek, and his articulation is as incisive as his dynamics are artful. His phrasing is natural, and he constructs a real narrative throughout. The slow movement is lyric and pure, and not the confessional it can often become these days. His technique is wholly unruffled throughout and he essays some Heifetz-like expressive moments along the way. Dashing bravura irradiates a finale notable for some personal phraseology wholly in keeping with so vivid a romanticist.

There are no notes, as usual from Forgotten Records, but the transfers are excellent.

Gimpel will always have a place in the hearts of those who admire a romanticism brokered between Kreisler’s limitless tonal warmth and Heifetz’s razor-hot intensity.

Jonathan Woolf

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