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Antonio Janigro (cello)
The Rare Cello Recordings
rec. 1953-1961
PROFIL PH20002 [4 CDs: 293:46]

The Italian cellist and conductor Antonio Janigro was born in Milan 21 January 1918. At the age of six he started learning the piano, but at eight gravitated towards the cello. His first teacher was Giovanni Berti, but he later enrolled at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, where he was taught by Gilberto Crepax. In 1934 he moved on to the École Normale in Paris, studying under Diran Alexanian and Pablo Casals. Around this time he started performing solo and in recitals with Dinu Lipatti, Paul Badura-Skoda and Alfredo Rossi. Whilst on vacation in Yugoslavia at the start of World War 11, he became stranded. He stayed in that country for the duration of the war. He was offered the job of professor of cello and chamber music at the Zagreb Conservatory. Other avenues of his career were as a member of the Maček-Šulek-Janigro Trio, a conductor for Radio Zagreb and a highly regarded teacher. In 1953 he helped found the chamber orchestra I Solisti di Zagreb through the auspices of Zagreb Radiotelevision. An ensemble of twelve string players, he became their artistic director, acting both as conductor and soloist until 1968. They have, even to this day, a wide-ranging repertoire, extending from the Baroque to the twentieth century. Janigro’s later years were spent in Milan, where he died in 1989.

Recordings featuring Janigro as soloist and conductor with I Solisti di Zagreb form a substantial portion of the collection. Some of the items have already seen the light of day on an Audite release, which I had the pleasure of reviewing back in 2016. In some ways, the late fifties and early sixties were a Golden Age for the ensemble. The confident playing, sense of abandon, stylish readings, articulation and phrasing and rich string tone underpin these vibrant performances. Mozart's youthful Divertimento in B flat K137 oozes affability and freshness, as does the Corelli Concerto Grosso. The Vivaldi Concerto is an arrangement for cello and orchestra by Georges Dandelot of the Concerto for violin No. 9 in D Major, RV 230 (L'Estro armonico, Op. 3). It has a glorious slow movement, where Janigro poetically fashions the beautiful long lyrical line against a gentle string accompaniment. The Concerto BWV 592 was transcribed by Bach after a work by Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar and further arranged by Milko Keleman. For me, at least, it doesn't hold a great deal of interest. In fact, I find it rather tedious and uninspiring - note spinning at its very best.

The Kelemen and Hindemith works were recorded in a single session dated 12 March 1958. Both works were later to appear, in different performances, on a Vanguard LP, which included some Shostakovich, Webern and Roussel. The Keleman is a rarity, and one which I enjoyed very much. For those unfamiliar with his name, he was a Croatian composer (1924-2018). His Concertante Improvisations is cast in four short movements. I sense a Bartók presence throughout, especially echoes of the Divertimento for String Orchestra in the opening movement. Pizzicatos add lightness and buoyancy to the third scherzo-like movement, whilst Bartók, once again, stamps his mark on the finale. Hindemith's Trauermusik was composed at short notice following the death of King George V in 1936. In fact, the composer completed the task in only six hours. It's a meditative, elegiac lament for solo viola and strings. Stefano Passaggio gives an eloquent account and he's superbly profiled in the mix. In a later Vanguard recording, Janigro performs the solo part on the cello.

Partnering Janigro in Beethoven's Cello Sonatas Nos. 3 and 4 is Jan Natermann in performances dating from 1956. I’ve only once come across this pianist previously, accompanying the violinist Miriam Solovieff (Meloclassic MC2030). I note that I commented in a review of the release that I couldn't find any information on Natermann, but that he was "a superb collaborator". The players penetrate to the emotional heart of these sonatas in readings which have emotional breadth and technical virtuosity. The cellist later recorded the complete cycle for Vanguard with Jörg Demus in the mid-1960s. Demus partners Janigro in Brahms Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor in a performance from 1957. A fusion of pastoral landscapes and elegiac leanings, the performance is expressive, brooding and ruminative. The finale is exceptionally bold and assertive. Janigro is joined by Jean Fournier (violin) and Paul Badura Skoda (piano) in a 1953 performance of Beethoven's Archduke Trio. It’s the one bad apple in the collection. Sadly, the piano sound is muffled, distant and echoey. In fact, it’s so poor, that the work fails to stand up to the scrutiny of repeated listening.

The performance of Haydn's D major concerto Hob.VIIb/2 has to be one of the finest I've heard. I've never been completely won over by this work as I am by the composer’s C major Concerto, but this performance with Rudolf Kempe conducting has a purposeful sense of direction, with the narrative taut and focused. Boccherini's No.9 is certainly the most popular of his twelve cello concertos. Tuneful and melodious in the outer movements, the melancholic slow movement makes a pleasing contrast. Dvorák's Cello Concerto finds the cellist in collaboration with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra under Erich Kleiber. The performance was recorded live in 1955, but I didn't discern any audience presence and no applause was retained. There are some wobbly brass passages in the first movement and the occasional spot of distortion in the recording quality. Yet, overall it’s a captivating reading with some warmly expressed lyrical moments. The 1959 collaboration between Janigro and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fritz Reiner in Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote has been widely circulated. For me, it's the highlight of the set. Reiner points up so much orchestral detail and Janigro's performance is characterful and committed. In short, it’s a classic.

Profil's remastering has been expertly carried out by Torben Widdermann, and the attractive bloom to the sound is a strong positive. Janigro was one of those all-round musicians who excel in anything they turn their hands to. This welcome release showcases his artistry to the full, and it receives my wholehearted recommendation.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

Bach, Johann Sebastian
Organ Concerto in G major, BWV592 (after Johann Ernst) (arr. M Kelemn)
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Cello Sonata no.3 in A major, op.69
Cello Sonata no.4 in C major, op.102 no.1
Piano Trio no.7 in B flat major, op.97 'Archduke'
Boccherini, Luigi
Cello Concerto no.9 in B flat major, G482
Brahms, Johannes
Cello Sonata no.1 in E minor, op.38
Corelli, Arcangelo
Concerti grossi (12), op.6
» no.4 in D major
Dvorak, Antonin
Cello Concerto in B minor, op.104
Haydn, Franz Joseph
Cello Concerto in D major, Hob.VIIb:2 (op.101)
Hindemith, Paul
Kelemen, Milko
Concertante Improvisations
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Divertimento in B flat major, K137 'Salzburg Symphony no.2'
Strauss, Richard
Don Quixote, op.35
Vivaldi, Antonio
Concertos (12), op.3 'L'estro armonico'
» no.9 in D major, RV230 (arr. for cello)

Participating artists:
Antonio Janigro (cello)
Paul Badura-Skoda (piano)
Jorg Demus (piano)
Jean Fournier (violin)
Jan Natermann (piano)
Stefano Passaggio (viola)
Milton Preves (viola)
Gunhild Stappenbec (piano)
John Weicher (violin)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Reiner
Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester / Erich Kleiber
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI / Franco Caracciolo
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI / Rudolf Kempe
Zagreb Soloists / Antonio Janigro

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