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Johanna Martzy (violin)
Swiss Radio Broadcast Recordings 1947-1969
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances, Sz 56, BB 68 (1914-15) [6:02]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
4 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op 17, JSkat 42 (1900) [14:59]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habanera (1907) [2:47]
Zoltán GÁRDONYI (1906-1986)
Rondo capriccioso for Violin and Piano (1941) [3:25]
Grigoras DINICU (1889-1949)/Jascha HEIFETZ
Hora Staccato [2:12]
Doris Rossiaud (piano)
rec. 17 March 1947, Geneva, Studio 2, Radio Genève Radio Studio Recording
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, KV 218; III. Rondeau: Andante grazioso (1775) [7:04]
with piano accompaniment
Final round of the 1947 Competition ‘Concours international d’exécution musicale de Genève’
rec. 1 October 1947, Geneva Grand Théâtre, Radio Genève Live Recording
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op 26 (1868) [24:22]
Radio-Orchester Beromünster/Ludovit Rajter
rec. 19 October 1969 Zürich, Radiostudio SRF Radio Studio Recording
MELOCLASSIC MC2035 [60:56]

Some of these performances derive from so early in Johanna Martzy’s career that they include her appearance in the final round of the 1947 Geneva Concours international competition when she was still only 22. But in fact, they delve even further back, charting a Swiss broadcast from March that year so those who want to hear this marvelous artist in her early years are in for a real treat.

For her Radio Geneva broadcast with Doris Rossiaud she plays five pieces, only one of which, so far as I know, she was later to record in the studio for commercial release, Ravel’s Pièce en forme de Habanera. One would have thought EMI would have wanted her Romanian Folk Dances, at least, but they are here at least, as this piece was central to her recital repertoire; see also her South African recital on Doremi, for another broadcast survivor (review) where she also plays the Suk heard here as well as the Ravel. She is already a formidable performer, full of rhythmic vitality and a strong sense of colour. Her Suk Four Pieces, Op.17 combines a smoky tone for the first, a well-sprung and vibrant third, and a clarity conscious final piece radiating maturity. By association it reminds one how enthusiastic and effective an interpreter she was of Dvořák’s Concerto. Gárdonyi’s Rondo capriccioso was, if not hot off the press, then at the least still warm, having been composed in 1941. It’s a lively and brief affair, with a luscious central section and cultivating the general air of a Hungarian hoe-down. Her recital signs off with another colourful reading of the Dinicu-Heifetz Hora Staccato.
No first prize was awarded in the October 1947 Geneva competition but Martzy did win second prize. I assume the surviving Mozart Concerto example was recorded on acetate. There’s thorny background noise but the actual spectrum is perfectly listenable. She plays the Rondo finale of the D major concerto, K218 with an unknown accompanist, not with orchestra, and most attractively. Fortunately, this was a piece that she did record in the studio but it’s still a real pleasure to hear her ‘on the wing’.
Over two decades later in Zurich she was teamed with Ludovit Rajter for the Bruch Concerto in G minor. She phrases devotedly and her tone remains expressive and multi-variegated in colour. She does take a little time to get fully warmed up but once she gets there, one can appreciate her warmly textured slow movement with romanticist spirit, her quick and deft slides and the expressive component in the finale.

Transfers and documentation are invariably beyond reproach when it comes to Meloclassic’s discs. And Martzy is inevitably a draw for fiddle appreciators.

Jonathan Woolf

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