Miriam Solovieff (violin)
Violin Recitals in France 1959 & 1966
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasie in C, D934 [21:31]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op.100 [19:32]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonata for Solo Violin No.3 in D minor "Ballade", Op. 27, No. 3 [6:39]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Violin Sonata in A major, RV 31 [6:43]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in B flat major, K454 [20:08]
Miriam Solovieff (violin)
Julius Katchen (piano: Schubert)
Christian Ivaldi (piano: Brahms, Mozart, Vivaldi)
rec. live 27 September 1959, Royaumont, Asnières sur Oise, France. RTF (Schubert);
20 October 1966, Salle Gaveau, Paris. ORTF
MELOCLASSIC MC2045 [75:05]

For Miriam Solovieff (1921-2004) the violin was actually her second choice of instrument. She began learning the piano, but switched to the stringed instrument following an impressive concert given by the ten year old Ruggiero Ricci at the Scottish Rite auditorium in San Francisco, Solovieff’s home city. She became a violin pupil of Robert Pollack at the San Francisco Conservatory. He later left for Tokyo, so she continued studies with Kathleen Parlow, via a short stint with Carol Weston her assistant. Progress was swift, and she performed the Bruch Concerto aged 10. Then it was off to Louis Persinger, teacher of Menuhin and Ricci, in New York. Later she spent a year with Carl Flesch in Belgium, who put the finishing touches to her artistry. When war broke out she returned to America. Tragedy struck not long after when her estranged father shot her mother and sister, then turned the gun on himself. All three died, with Miriam making a narrow escape. She spent a brief spell in the army, married, and then went playing for the troops in Europe. In the 1950s she relocated to Paris, where she took up teaching. She died there in 2004. This is the second Solovieff volume from Meloclassic I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.

What we have are two live radio recitals, one featuring the Schubert Fantasie with pianist Julius Katchen from 1959, and a more substantial recital recorded seven years later in Paris’ Salle Pleyel with Christian Ivaldi. These are of immense value, as the commercial discography of the pianist is scant to say the least. I could only find one LP of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under Mario Rossi, with Solovieff providing the solo part. Sadly, this has never been transferred to CD. Apparently, she recorded the three Brahms Violin Sonatas with Julius Katchen in the 1960s, but suffered a breakdown and nothing came of the venture.

The collaboration with Julius Katchen in Schubert’s C major Fantasie from 27 September 1959 is the least successful of the performances here. Maybe Solovieff was having a bad hair day. The performance never takes off, remaining earthbound. It’s also flecked with intonation problems and there are one or two ungainly slides.

There are no such shortcomings in the later recital from 20 October 1966. Intimate and sunny is how I would describe Brahms’ Second Sonata, and Solovieff and Ivaldi capture the character admirably. The second movement is particularly fine, where tender moments are contrasted with folk dancing. The lovely finale is one of noble sincerity. Solovieff takes centre stage for the only solo item, Eugène Ysayë’s Third Sonata, dedicated to Georges Enesco. It’s an intensely passionate reading, technically assured, with a fine sense of drama. The four-movement Vivaldi Sonata is a work I haven’t previously heard. It’s absolutely delightful. The players enter fully into its upbeat spirit. Matching phrases between the violin and piano, and idiomatic phrasing and articulation secure the performance’s success. K454 is perhaps Mozart’s best known and best loved violin sonata, where the composer gives more equality to the two instruments than in any of the other works in the genre. Like the Brahms, the mood is sunny. The slow movement is expressive and radiates warmth, and Solofieff’s phrasing is ardent and expressive. The finale is animated, fresh and life-enhancing.

This release will especially appeal to violin mavens who wish to seek out rare performances by forgotten artists. I must praise Meloclassic’s new slim-line gatefold; it’s both eco-friendly and space-saving. All told, this release is a valuable and most welcome discographical addition.

Announcements and applause are retained for the earlier recital.

Stephen Greenbank