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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata Op. 5 No.6 arr. Spalding [11:15]
Sonata Op. 5 No.1 [12:09]
Sonata Op. 5 No.12 ‘La Follia’: Prelude arr. Spalding [6:16]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Twelve Sonatas and Pastorale, Op.1; No.10 ‘Didone abbandonata’ [12:00]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well-Tempered Clavier; Prelude and Fugue No.14, BWV883: Prelude arr. Spalding [3:57]
Albert Spalding (violin)
Anthony Kooiker (piano)
rec. 1951

Though his recorded repertoire was wide and included some of his own immensely attractive compositions, I’ve always felt that Albert Spalding was at his best in music of the Baroque period. It suited his clarity of articulation, his electric-speed trills, his focused tone and also a certain aristocratic reserve that meant that he seldom lapsed into then-fashionable excesses of expression.

Even toward the end of his career, indeed the end of his life – born in 1888, he died in May 1953 and these recordings were made around 1951 – he demonstrated that when the right repertoire presented itself, he was still a formidable exponent, though one clearly past his best. Small labels such as Remington, as here, (strapline ‘A Don Gabor Production’) invited him to record even after his official retirement from concert performance in May 1950. Some of the results were problematic in terms of intonation and vibrato usage, even though he was not a great tonalist as such. Here, however, these concerns largely evaporate.

With Iowa-born Anthony Kooiker (1920-87), his piano accompanist of four years, he plays three Corelli sonatas, one by Tartini and a Bach confection. Two of the Corellis are heard in his own arrangements. Op.5 No.6 is the first to bear his quasi-compositional handprint, and one feels throughout the sheer refinement of his art – his purity, his elegance as much as touching pathos, the buoyancy of the faster movements in playing both probing and pellucid. Op.5 No.1 reinforces these virtues, notably in the gravity of the slow movements. His own arrangement of La Follia is a strange one. A cut-down version very different from the familiar Léonard it’s nonetheless revealing to hear Spalding filleting the music for its essence and refashioning it to suit his own technical strengths.

The Bach Prelude is also his own arrangement- it’s rather slight but again shows that he not only composed but added a sheaf of arrangements to the repertoire, for those with a yen to explore them. Tartini’s Didone abbandonata Sonata offers yet more evidence of the refinement and nobility of his phrasing in the outer movements as well as his excellent bowing in the central one. This piece will remind Spalding admirers of his well-known 78 of the Devil’s Trill which has been multiply reissued – it was on Symposium 1291, A Classical Record ACR42 and also on one of the CDs issued in his centenary year, MRF502.

Not everything in the recital is pinpoint accurate but very little will disturb the listener. Much will reinforce Spalding’s reputation as an artist of technical excellence and expressive eloquence. I commend the transfers. My copy of RLP-199-23 – it was also issued on Concerteum CR281 – has been much visited by the stylii of previous owners and sounds very gritty. This transfer is crystal clear and pure – just like Spalding’s playing.

Jonathan Woolf

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