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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 [26:58]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 [36:08]
Heinrich Wilhelm ERNST (1812-1865)
Violin Concerto in F# minor, Op.23 [13:14]
Ossy Renardy (violin)
National Orchestral Association/Leon Barzin
Radio City Symphony Orchestra/Ernö Rapée (Ernst)
rec. live, Carnegie Hall, NY, 23 January 1939 (Tchaikovsky); Radio City Music Hall, NY, 15 April 1945 (Brahms); 28 September 1941 (Ernst)
MELOCLASSIC MC2037 [76:23]

These three live concerto recordings by Ossy Renardy (1920-1953) are of added value in that the violinist's discography contains just one example of a concerto recording with orchestra, the Brahms Concerto in D major with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under Charles Munch, set down on 27 June 1948. Munch was a Renardy admirer, declaring "There is only one word to describe him: perfection. He has everything - style, technique and tone, combined in the most splendid manner". This is a fitting assessment.

He started life as Oskar Reiss in Vienna in 1920, but later changed his name to Ossy Renardy for a tour of Merano, Italy in 1933 at the suggestion of his manager. The Italianate name was considered more appealing to his audience. Anyway the name stuck. One of his claims to fame followed a concert in New York in 1940 when he performed Paganini's 24 Caprices. A year later he was asked to record them in an arrangement for violin and piano by Ferdinand David. This was the first time they were recorded complete. It was left to Ruggiero Ricci was make the first recording of them in their original solo form in 1947. A successful career beckoned. Sadly, in December 1953 whilst on tour in Mexico, he was killed in an automobile accident. He was only 33. This tragedy came just a couple of months after the American pianist William Kapell was killed in an airplane crash.

Leon Barzin is excellent in the Tchaikovsky Concerto, fully alert and responsive to Renardy's playing. The performance benefits from not wallowing or being over-indulgent. The violin sings out in the slow movement, and we are treated to a hauntingly beautiful rendition. The finale is the least successful movement here, sounding rather pedestrian and lacking some of that essential ingredient – fizz and dazzle.

The Brahms Concerto is interpretively moulded along the same lines as the studio version with Munch set down three years later. That latter recording I'm very fond of, and this live airing from April 1945, again under the competent baton of Leon Barzin, though sonically inferior, in no way disappoints. It's a reading of shared purpose, a true meeting of minds. Lyrical warmth and drama inform the opening movement, and the Kreisler cadenza is delivered with sparkle and panache. Renardy's expressive phrasing in the slow movement is fervently etched, with a beguiling oboe solo at the start. The finale has plenty of fire and élan.

I first became acquainted with Ernst's Concerto in F# minor, Op.23 by way of Ruggiero Ricci's recording with the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra under Kees Bakels on the One-Eleven label. It's a stunning work, deserving of more currency. Cast in a single-movement, it fuses Paganini bravura with Bellini bel canto. Renardy captures the very essence of the work, with playing of supreme technical command and imaginative flights of fantasy. The lyrical sections are eloquently sculpted and the intonation is flawless.

The source copies for these restorations were 16 inch acetates of varying quality. Added to that, the Tchaikovsky Concerto first movement has a pitch change which couldn’t be adjusted. Owing to microphone placement, the soloist is forwardly spotlighted in each of the concertos, with the orchestra, in each case, sounding rather recessed. Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, these recorded documents are of tremendous historical importance and value, more so because of the dearth of recordings with orchestra this artist made.

Applause and announcements are retained.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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