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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77 (1878) [38:28]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Concerto, WoO 23 (1853) [31:55]
Peter Rybar (violin)
West Austrian Symphony Orchestra/Hans Moltkau (Brahms)
Lausanne Symphony Orchestra/Victor Desarzens (Schumann)
rec. 1952 (Brahms) and 1951, Lausanne (Schumann)

Viennese-born of Czech parents, Peter Rybar (1913-2002) has always been of interest to violin collectors by whom he is admired as a soloist, chamber player and orchestral leader. After studies at the Prague Conservatory he eventually settled in Winterthur, later leading the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva. Small-scale, usually American record companies, such as Concert Hall and Musical Masterpiece Society contain the bulk of his recordings and they remain valuable, sometimes for the repertoire but more often for the solo performances.

This restoration focuses on Rybar the soloist. The Brahms was recorded in 1952 with Hans Moltkau directing the West Austrian Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra’s tone may be thin, an impression that may be exaggerated by the recording, which also means the tuttis don’t register with as much force as they should, but Rybar is bold and stylistically aware, passionate but canny with his employment of rubati. He prefers the Kreisler cadenza to the more commonly played Joachim, but he’s clearly amended it slightly. It sounds well. Rybar is throughout an authoritative soloist, and the plays the slow movement with lyricism, colour and warmth, deploying vivid finger position changes. He is streets ahead of the orchestra, where the horns are too loud and the oboe soloist is overbalanced by them and, in any case, not very good. I’ve read that the oboist was a replacement for the original player so one wonders how bad he could have been. Yes, the balance in the finale is scrappy, the percussion is dull, and the conducting routine, but Rybar, being Czech, digs into the pesante rhythms of the finale and plays with requisite verve and vitality. That said, you’d wouldn’t buy this as a valuable performance of the Brahms as a whole as it’s all too obviously the kind of hurried and run-of-the-mill orchestral performance served up in the cheap-to-hire Harry Lime Austria of the early 50s. Rybar is on a wholly different level.

The companion Schumann is quite different, the product of thoughtful preparation and executant intelligence all round. In charge was Victor Desarzens, and he was known for his excellence as a Schumann conductor. Rybar himself had heard the earliest performances of the exhumed Concerto given by D’Aranyi and Menuhin when he was in London in 1938. There had been numerous rehearsals before the 1953 recording and sectional discipline is tight, and balance between soloist and orchestra finely judged, even if the soloist is fractionally forward. The performance is excellent all round and not just in the seraphic slow movement. Rybar and Desarzens really make something of passagework that some others treat all too dutifully and with singing, warmly centred tone Rybar reveals all the work’s beauties, backed to the hilt by the Lausanne orchestra.

This fine souvenir of Rybar’s art has been very well engineered with no notes, but pertinent internet links.

Jonathan Woolf

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