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Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6 (1816, arr. one movement by August Wilhelmj) [17:51]
Édouard LALO (1823–1892)
Symphonie espagnole (1875) [32:25]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto, Op. 82 (1904) [19:14]
Bronislaw Gimpel (violin)
South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rolf Reinhardt (Paganini)
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra//Fritz Rieger (Lalo)
Pro Musica Stuttgart/Håkan von Eichwald (Glazunov)
rec. 1956-57

It’s regrettable that Bronisław Gimpel, like that other Carl Flesch student Ricardo Odnopossof, never attained the heights he truly deserved. Today he’s largely forgotten despite his manifold achievements, which embrace that of soloist, concertmaster, chamber musician, teacher and conductor.

He was born in Lwów, Poland in 1911. His first teacher was his father. At the age of eight he was enrolled at the Lwów Conservatory to study with Moritz Wolfstahl. He made his debut with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. At eleven it was onwards and upwards to the Vienna Conservatory where he was under the tutelage of Robert Pollack, who was Isaac Stern’s early teacher. Bronisław’s pianist brother Jakob also attended the conservatory at the time. At fourteen he played the Goldmark Concerto. Later, he spent about a year with Carl Flesch at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, yet never attained the acclaim of the pedagogue’s most famous pupils, who included Henryk Szeryng, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis and Ginette Neveu. Flesch advised him to get some orchestral experience, so Gimpel spent time working under Herman Scherchen in Königsberg and Otto Klemperer in Los Angeles. After the war, he embarked on some heavy concertizing. Aside from this busy schedule, in 1963 he founded the Warsaw Quintet, which continued until 1967. From 1967 until 1973 he taught at the University of Connecticut, and it was there that he instituted the New England String Quartet. Other teaching posts included a spell in the 1970s as a professor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. He returned to his remaining family in Los Angeles in 1978 and died a year later aged only sixty-eight.

The recordings here were set down in the mid-1950s. The Paganini and Glazunov were made for Vox in 1957; the Lalo is a Deutsche Grammophon recording from a year earlier. The Paganini Concerto No. 1 is the one movement arrangement by August Wilhelmj, a version that can seem rather passé today. I can’t say I warm to it, and would have preferred it in its original three movement form. Nonetheless, Gimpel rises to the technical challenges admirably, and demonstrates a technical assurance vying with the very best. He uses a slightly abridged Sauret cadenza.

In the Lalo Symphonie espagnole he thankfully plays all five movements, avoiding that awful habit of omitting the Intermezzo, a fashion at the time. It’s a lovely performance, capturing the music’s Iberian flavour, especially in the suave rubato he employs in the second movement Scherzando. The Intermezzo’s haberna-like character has real passion and potency. The Andante has generous outpourings of melodic wealth, and the finale is ignited with verve and gusto.

The Glazunov Concerto is, for me, the star of the show. The sound quality of the recording is slightly better, and I like the balance struck between soloist and orchestra. Gimpel’s full-bloodied tone suits this work to perfection. There are so many poetic moments, and each is eloquently sculpted. There’s also ample power and passion. Håkan von Eichwald and the Pro Musica Stuttgart are with the soloist every step of the way. The version stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest recordings out there, including those by Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh and a less well-known version by Julian Sitkovetsky, utterly captivating and well worth seeking out.

The remasterings are excellent. The disc will be of special value to those not familiar with Gimpel’s work, giving a taster of the scope of his artistry. There are no notes with this release, as is often the case with Forgotten Records, but websites of relevance are indicated on the back tray.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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