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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) 
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 (1878) [26:58]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) 
Violin Concerto in D major Op.77 (1878) [36:08]
Heinrich Wilhelm ERNST (1814-1865)
Concerto in F sharp minor Op.23 (Concerto Allegro-Pathétique) (published 1850) [13:14]
Ossy Renardy (violin)
National Orchestral Association/Leon Barzin
Radio City Symphony Orchestra/Ernő Rapée (Ernst)
rec. 1939 (Tchaikovsky) and 1945 (Brahms), Carnegie Hall, NYC; 1941, Radio City Music Hall, NYC (Ernst)
MELOCLASSIC MC2037 [76:23]

Meloclcassic notes the defects of these historic documents in the booklet. Recorded live on 16” acetates there’s a noticeable pitch lurch in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky and there are varying noise levels between the discs. However, I have to say that even with these limitations noted, the sound itself is perfectly listenable and the extreme rarity of the material offers an important insight into the art of the short-lived Ossy Renardy.

The Tchaikovsky was recorded in Carnegie Hall in January 1939 when he was not yet 19 years old, having given his American premiere a year previously. There are numerus cuts. The young Renardy’s ardent expressive sound, with its characteristic tremulous vibrato in lyrically intense passages, is well captured, though you’ll have to cope with the engineers’ on-the-job altering of the sound levels – it is most noticeable when they dampen the orchestral tuttis. It should be acknowledged that this is a practice that continues to this day. His quicksilver lithe way with the second movement strongly suggests the influence of Heifetz and at this stage in his career Renardy rather sounds in thrall to the Russian’s ethos in this work. But as he shows here and in the finale his technique is powerful and his rhythmic impetus buoyant. A small amount of audience applause has been retained to demonstrate the effect of his performance that January day.

To have essayed Ernst’s Concerto in F sharp minor Op.23 was not undaring. Much here is admirable soloistically though sometimes Renardy’s phrasing is not entirely relaxed and therefore not wholly convincing. The Radio City Symphony Orchestra in its Music Hall home is only fitfully impressive under Ernő Rapée and is backwardly balanced by the engineers. Like the Tchaikovsky, the concerto has been hacked about. It’s back announced. He must have had Ernst on his mind at the time because, as collectors will know, he recorded the same composer’s Hungarian Airs, Op.22 in the same year.

The Brahms concerto is Renardy’s only commercial concerto recording, a famous and oft-reissued reading with Charles Munch, who is known hugely to have admired Renardy’s playing (see review). Three years earlier in April 1945 he was captured in Carnegie Hall playing the concerto with the National Orchestral Association and conductor Leon Barzin, the accompanists in the Tchaikovsky too. There is a similar sense of stylistic affiliation and instrumental finesse and, as with the studio recording, the only real demerits are a sometimes over-effusive phraseology and an occasionally limited range of tone colour. Again, the engineers have dampened the orchestral sound in the balance.

In new black livery with customarily helpful notes from Michael Waiblinger this is a finely engineered release and despite the cuts and the engineering questions the Tchaikovsky and Ernst concertos, previously unknown in Renardy’s discography, are important additions to his representation on disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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