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The Art of Josef Gingold (violin)
rec. 1938-68
PARNASSUS PACD96065/6 [79:48 + 64:00]

Though these recordings have been released before, on the Enharmonic and the semi-private Perfomer’s Domain labels - as the acknowledgements in the book make clear - they won’t have received wide distribution and most people won’t have come across them. The exceptions are the commercial recordings of the Bloch (RCA Victor) and the Françaix, which was made for the much more obscure Friends of Recorded Music label.

Gingold’s career as distinguished orchestral and chamber player, and teacher, largely precluded much in the way of a substantial discography, so any remnants are to be prized. Clearly the biggest catch is the Beethoven Concerto, a performance given in 1963 with the orchestra of Ohio State University directed by George Hardesty (1914-2003), a West Virginian who founded the Columbus Little Symphony, which later became the Columbus Symphony. He conducted the Ohio State orchestra for just shy of four decades. Gingold plays with tremendous refinement of spirit, his expressive breadth irradiating a performance with lyric impulse, deft dynamics and tonal beauty; he never makes an ugly sound. The serene elasticity of his playing in the slow movement is a highlight among many and the linking passage to the finale is excellently judged. Whilst the university orchestra provides the best support it can, all ears are drawn to the soloist’s playing.

The Bloch Sonata No.1 was recorded on 78s with Beryl Rubinstein in 1938. It’s a marvelously communicative and vibrant reading, with Gingold’s multi-variegated tone doing full justice to the music’s fervour. He doesn’t stint the resinous agitation of the music either and with Rubinstein, the son of a Rabbi, this is a partnership of equals. Whether in the quivering intensity of the central movement or the barbaro elements of the finale, it’s a performance to savour – and that encourages speculation as to Gingold’s Bartók and Szymanowski. The only demerit to the performance is not the musicians’ fault; Rubinstein is just too backwardly balanced. Françaix’s Sonatine is notable for being the only known recording made by Mischa Elman’s sister, Lisa. The work’s spry qualities, and the perfumed Gallicism of its central slow movement, are alike eloquently projected.

The second disc is given over to Schubert. The Grand Duo and Fantasia in C were given in March 1968 and are accompanied by Walter Robert, a colleague of Gingold’s at Indiana University. The co-ordination between the two players is, as expected, commanding and the playing is both technically accomplished and stylistically apt. There are some thumps and scrunches on the preserved sound – this is not a professional recording – along with a quotient of hum. But it’s easy to listen beyond these limitations to the maturity and elegance of phrasing and playing, not least in the far greater demands of the Fantasia. The final work is the Sonata in A minor, D385 with György Sebök (date unknown), full of natural phrasing and free of all extraneous distraction. The recording is perfectly serviceable too.

The booklet is succinct and full of pertinent biographical detail and the transfers have done their utmost to present the sound attractively. For admirers of this great musician who have yet to hear these recordings this is a must-have.

Jonathan Woolf

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 (1806) [41:51]
Ohio State University Orchestra/George Hardesty
rec. February 1963
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Violin Sonata No. 1 (1920) [26:40]
Beryl Rubinstein (piano)
rec. 1938, RCA Victor 78s
Jean FRANCAIX (1912-1997)
Sonatine for violin and piano (1934) [9:56]
Lisa Elman (piano)
rec. Friends of Music 78s, undated
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Violin Sonata, ‘Duo’, Op. post.162, D574 (1817) [18:21]
Fantasie in C major,, D934 (1827) [26:42]
rec. March 1968
Walter Robert (piano)
Violin Sonata in A minor Op. post.137 No.2, D385 (1816) [18:41]
György Sebők (piano)
rec. undated

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