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Legendary Violinists in Live Concert Performances
Guila Bustabo, Michèle Auclair, Lola Bobesco
rec. 1960-1966
MELOCLASSIC MC2047 [68:35]

This single disc features performances by three female violinists, all near contemporaries. Each was a renowned performer who, for some reason, has migrated off the radar -  unjustly in my view. Like many of these past legends, it’s been left to the Japanese and Koreans to keep the candle burning.

First up is the American violinist Guila Bustabo (1916-2002), described in one article I read as “The Best Forgotten Violinist of All Time”. The story is a sad one. Dominated by an over-protective mother, in 1970 she suffered a breakdown, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She died in poverty in 2002. She plays here the Paganini/Wilhelmj Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 6. Partnering her in this 1966 live recording are the Orchestre de chambre de l’ORTF directed by Otmar Nussio. It’s a thrilling traversal in wonderful sound, which truly showcases the violinist’s superb technical command. Intonation is dead-centre, harmonics are pure and gleaming, treacherous double-stops are negotiated with consummate ease and polish and staccatos are crisp and incisive. The Sauret cadenza is carried off spectacularly. I have in my collection another performance of the Concerto dating from 1940 with Fritz Zaun conducting the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, and issued on a 2 CD set by A Classical Record entitled “The Bustabo Legacy”. The violinist takes a similar approach, but the sound is more dated.

Michèle Auclair (1924-2005) hailed from a family of amateur musicians and painters. Line Talluel was her first teacher who also taught that other great French violinist Ginette Neveu. She then went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Jules Boucherit, Jacques Thibaud and Boris Kamensky. In 1943 she was prize winner of the first Marguerite Long–Jacques Thibaud Competition. Sadly, in the mid-sixties, Auclair was involved in an automobile accident which put paid to her career as a soloist. She devoted the rest of her life to teaching and supporting young violinists both at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris (1969-1989), and at the New England Conservatory in Boston (1989-2002). She died in Paris aged eighty. Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 is a sparkling and well-paced account, with the lyrical moments expressively convincing, and the more virtuosic sections rendered with technical authority. Her supreme digital command is especially evident in the spiccato passage near the end. Ravel’s Tzigane is seductive and shot through with an exotic gypsy flavour. Recorded in Leipzig in 1960, the soloist and orchestra sound quite distant from the microphone placements, and the acoustic sounds quite resonant and cavernous. Nevertheless, these performances are welcome as they bulk out the artist’s slender discography.

The Romanian violinist Lola Bobesco (1921-2003) was also a student of Jules Boucherit at the Paris Conservatoire, where she took first prize in 1934. Later she was mentored by Georges Enescu and Jacques Thibaud. Of the three violinists here, she’s probably the best remembered today, and commands a fairly reasonable sized discography. She formed a productive partnership with her pianist husband Jacques Genty and, although the two later divorced, the duo lived on. Her performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K219 'Turkish' was set down in Hamburg on 2 May 1965. Bobesco is partnered by the NDR-Sinfonieorchester under Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. This is a stylish reading, imbued with elegance. Her rich, warm tone suits this piece to perfection. Tempi sit comfortably throughout. The outer movements radiate joy and zest, whilst the slow movement is ardent and sensuous. Bobesco plays the popular Joachim cadenza. Schmidt-Isserstedt proves to be an inspirational conductor. I’ve previously reviewed another live performance of this concerto from 1962, equally successful, in which Bobesco is partnered by the Sinfonieorchester des Suddeutschen Rundfunks, directed by Hans-Muller-Kray on SWR Music.

This is yet another beautifully produced release from Meloclassic. The booklet contains useful pocket-sized biographies of the three artists by Michael Waiblinger.

Stephen Greenbank

PAGANINI/WILHELMJ: Violin Concerto No 1 in D Major, Op 6
Guila Bustabo (violin)
Orchestre de chambre de l’ORTF/Otmar Nussi
Recorded live 19 May 1966, Maison de la Radio ORTF, Paris
SAINT-SAËNS: Introduction et Rondo capriccioso, Op 28
RAVEL: Tzigane
Michèle Auclair (violin)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig/Heinz Rögner
Recorded live 31 January 1960, Kongreßhalle Radio GDR, Leipzig
MOZART: Violin Concerto No 5 in A Major, KV 219
Lola Bobesco (violin)
NDR-Sinfonieorchester/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Recorded live 02 May 1965, Musikhalle NDR, Hamburg

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