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Jaime Laredo (violin)
The Complete RCA and Columbia Album Collection
rec. 1959-1993
SONY CLASSICAL 19439870202 [22 CDs: 23 hrs]

This welcome 22 CD set gathers together for the first time, violinist Jaime Laredo’s complete RCA and Columbia legacy. A multifaceted and gifted musician, he excelled in the roles of violin and viola soloist, conductor, pedagogue and chamber musician. Born June 7, 1941 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the family relocated to North America in 1948 to enable him to begin violin lessons with Antonio de Grassi. He went on to study with Josef Gingold and Ivan Galamian, in addition to having private coaching with Pablo Casals and George Szell. His banner year was 1959 when he won the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition. A year later he made his debut at Carnegie Hall. He's been the conductor of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra since 1999. In 2012, the Cleveland Institute of Music announced the appointment of Laredo and cellist wife Sharon Robinson to the string faculty.

The absence of any violin sonatas by Mozart or Beethoven is regrettable. However, to make up for this shortfall, there’s just one sonata by Brahms, namely No 3 in D minor with pianist Vladimir Sokoloff from 1959. A very fine performance it is, too, capturing the drama and urgency of the outer movements and the fervency of the Adagio. If only he’d recorded all three. It can be found on CD 2 paired with Bach’s Partita No 3 in E major, which is a cheerful and high-spirited rendition, with the dance movements kept light and lively throughout. The final Gigue is a delight.

In 1975, Columbia brought Laredo and the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould together for Bach’s 6 Sonatas for Violin & keyboard. Laredo performs on a modern violin and employs some generous vibrato. Gould’s articulations are mannered and will irritate some. His groans are clearly audible throughout most of the performances. There’s plenty of forward momentum in Gould’s playing in the fast movements, with a heavy deliberate touch in the slow ones. It will be a matter of taste whether or not you enjoy these readings. Apparently, Gould was pleased with the overall result and proposed further projects, namely the Grieg, Strauss and the two Busoni sonatas. Alas, these were never realized.

In the early 1960’s Laredo was drawn to the Marlboro Music Festival by his friend, the violinist Michael Tree. As time went on, he became a perennial favorite at the Festival, and this collection includes six CDs set down in the Music Shed. The earliest, dated May 23 1962, is a captivating traversal of the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Rudolf Serkin (piano) and Leslie Parnas (cello). The Marlboro Festival Orchestra is conducted by Alexander Schneider. In Mozart’s Concertone in C major for Two Violins, K190, Laredo is paired up with Michael Tree. It’s a refreshing performance with upbeat outer movements and a refined genteel central slow movement. There’s another performance taped later in London with Laredo and Cho-Liang Lin where, once again, the blending of the two violins and matching phrasing and dynamics secure the performance’s success. The Guarneri Quartet are joined by Laredo and colleagues for a magical performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet. It’s full of boundless optimism. Laredo, who leads, shoulders a good portion of the melodic responsibility from the outset. You’re carried along with the opening movement’s surging rhythmic drive, and I’m pleased they do the exposition repeat. The Andante is warm and expressive and the Scherzo mercurial and magical.

Schubert’s ever-popular Trout Quintet is given a confident and engaging reading. It’s characterized by a sense of shared purpose, with each player given his moment in the sun. The two Mendelssohn String Quintets were recorded at Marlboro in May 1974, and I’m pleased they’re included as these are works which deserve to be heard more often. The performances certainly don’t lack tension and urgency. The A major, Op 18, an early work, brims over with Mozartean grace and charm, whilst the later B-flat, Op 87 sounds more orchestral in scale, with textures that point towards Brahms. The pianist in the 1973 recording of Ravel’s Piano Trio is Laredo’s first wife, Ruth Laredo. The players bring out the voluptuous scoring and revel in the work’s sensuous and exotic textures. Schoenberg’s Serenade, Op 24 of 1923 is a striking score, heavily reliant on timbre and rhythmic variation. Ensemble is excellent in this demanding work, and a nice balance has been struck in the recording process to ensure clarity of the individual instrumental voices. Bass Thomas Paul makes a good job of reciting Petrarch's Sonnet 256 in the fourth movement.

There are many examples of Laredo assuming the role of violist in chamber music collaborations. Joy and spontaneity are conveyed in the performances of the Mozart’s Piano Quartets. Taken together, these two masterpieces inhabit a wide expressive range. There’s a deep sense of pathos in the Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, which readily contrasts with the E-flat Quartet’s sunnier landscape. I’m particularly taken by the Emanuel Ax’s discreet ornamentation for the repeats in the G minor Quartet, and the little cadenza he inserts into the return of the rondo theme in the third movement.

Together with Emanuel Ax (piano), Isaac Stern (violin) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello), this impressive lineup won a Grammy award in 1991 for their recordings of Brahms’ three piano quartets. Each of the performances rise to the composer’s dramatic challenges, with moments of yearning passion and delicacy. In short, they’re truly convincing. They went on to record Fauré’s two piano quartets. The readings are stylish, polished and idiomatic with a wonderful balance achieved between piano and strings. In the First Quartet the Scherzo is spry, fluid and upbeat, whilst the Adagio, by contrast is imbued with pain and anguish, where Yo-Yo Ma’s wonderfully rich tone truly shines. It’s difficult to understand why the Second Quartet has never managed to achieve the popularity of the First. Not only is it superbly crafted, but lyricism abounds. It receives a splendidly spontaneous traversal from this stellar cast.

Brahm’s two sextets are digital recordings from 1989, featuring Isaac Stern and Cho-Liang Lin on violins, Jaime Laredo and Michael Tree on violas and Yo-Yo Ma and Sharon Robinson on cellos. Again, these are winning performances fully savouring the richness of the music. The performers are fully in tune with the emotional immediacy of the music. Melodies are expressively contoured and tonal colours rendered. As a bonus a 1991 recording of Emanuel Ax performing "Theme and Variations for Piano" (an arrangement of the second movement of the first string sextet) is included.

There’s much more besides to enjoy in this wonderful set, with not a dud amongst the performances. It’s a delight from beginning to end, with some artful musicianship on display.

Examples of Laredo as soloist and chamber musician, fulfilling the roles of both violinist and violist, make for an interesting and varied collection. The beautifully produced booklet begins with a glowing tribute from one of Laredo’s eminent colleagues, Emanuel Ax, and there are some fascinating photos interspersed throughout. Each of the discs is encased in a cardboard sleeve which reproduces the original album cover. All told, this collection is well worth investing in.

Stephen Greenbank

Bach, Johann Sebastian
Orchestral Suite No 3 in D major, BWV1068
- II Air 'Air on the G string'
Partita for solo violin No 3 in E major, BWV1006
Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, BWV1041
Violin Sonatas 1-6, BWV1014-1019 (complete)
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op 16
Triple Concerto in C major for piano, violin and cello, Op 56
Boccherini, Luigi
String Quintets (6), Op 11 G271-276
- No 5 in E major, G275
Brahms, Johannes
Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 25
Piano Quartet No 2 in A major, Op 26
Piano Quartet No 3 in C minor, Op 60
String Quintet No 2 in G major, Op 111
String Sextet No 1 in B-flat major, Op 18
String Sextet No 2 in G major, Op 36
Violin Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op 108
Bruch, Max
Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor, Op 26
Debussy, Claude
Preludes (12), Book 1
- No 8 La fille aux cheveux de lin (The girl with the flaxen hair) (violin and piano)
Dvorak, Antonin
Piano Quartet No 2 in E-flat major, Op 87
Falla, Manuel de
Suite populaire espagnole
- Jota
- Nana
Faure, Gabriel
Piano Quartet No 1 in C minor, Op 15
Piano Quartet No 2 in G minor, Op 45
Korngold, Erich Wolfgang
Suite for 2 violins, cello and piano left hand, Op 23
Mendelssohn, Felix
Octet in E-flat major, Op 20
String Quintet No 1 in A major, Op 18
String Quintet No 2 in B-flat major, Op 87
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Concertone in C major for 2 violins and orchestra, K190
Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, K478
Piano Quartet No 2 in E-flat major, K493
Piano Trio No 3 in B-flat major, K502
Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra in E-flat major, K364
Violin Concerto No 3 in G major, K216
Paganini, Nicolo
Caprices (24) for solo violin, Op 1
- No 13 in B-flat major 'Devil's laughter'
Paradis, Maria Theresia von
Ravel, Maurice
Piano Trio in A minor
Sonata for violin and cello
Saint-Georges, Chevalier de
Symphonie concertante in G major for 2 violins and orchestra, Op 13
Sarasate, Pablo de
Carmen Fantasy, Op 25
Schoenberg, Arnold
Serenade, Op 24
Schubert, Franz
Piano Quintet in A major, D667 'The Trout' (Die Forelle)
String Quintet in C major, Op 163 D956
Schumann, Robert
Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op 47
Vivaldi, Antonio
Violin Sonatas (12), Op 2
- Sonata No 2 in A major, RV31
Wieniawski, Henryk
Scherzo tarantelle, Op 16

Contributing artists:
Leonard Arner (oboe)
Emanuel Ax (piano)
John Dalley (violin)
Leon Fleisher (piano)
Madeline Foley (cello)
Miriam Fried (violin)
Jacob Glick (mandolin)
Glenn Gould (piano)
Kim Kashkashian(viola)
Ani Kavafian (violin)
Ruth Laredo (piano)
Julius Levine (double bass)
Cho-Liang Lin (violin)
Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
Philipp Naegele (viola)
Heiichiro Ohyama (viola)
Leslie Parnas (cello)
Thomas Paul (bass)
Samuel Rhodes (violin)
Sharon Robinson (cello)
Alexander Schneider (violin)
Rudolf Serkin (piano)
Joseph Silverstein (violin)
Vladimir Sokoloff (piano)
Jeffrey Solow (cello)
David Soyer (cello)
Arnold Steinhardt (violin)
Isaac Stern (violin)
Don Stewart (bass clarinet)
Michael Tree (viola)
Harold Wright (clarinet)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Marlboro Festival Orchestra
Washington National Symphony Orchestra

Contributing conductors:
Paul Freeman
Leon Kirchner
Raymond Leppard
Howard Mitchell
Charles Munch
Alexander Schneider

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