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Pina Carmirelli (violin)
Concerto Recordings 1963 - 1967
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 77 [39:29]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op 19 [23:16]
Radio-Orchester Beromünster/Erich Schmid (Brahms)
SWF Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden/Ernest Bour (Prokofiev)
rec. 27 January 1963, Studio 1, SRF, Zürich (Brahms); 17-18 January 1967, Studio 5, SWF, Baden-Baden (Prokofiev)
MELOCLASSIC MC2044 [62:45]

It’s with great enthusiasm that I welcome another batch of live and radio studio recordings from the Meloclassic label. The focus of this release is the Italian violinist Pina Carmerelli, who many will be familiar with from her work with I Musici. In 2017, the label released a 2 CD set of works for violin and piano, which I had had the pleasure of reviewing. Now, attention is turned to two radio studio recordings with orchestra set down in the 1960s of concertos by Brahms and Prokofiev.

For those making a first acquaintance, Carmirelli was born in 1914 in Varzi, Italy. Her grandfather was the conductor and composer Carlo Podesta, who provided the young Pina with some initial encouragement. She went on to study at the Milan Conservatory. In 1949 she founded the Quintetto Boccherini, and became something of an authority on Boccherini. She did much to research and promote the composer's music and had a hand in preparing editions of his oeuvre. Later she formed the Carmirelli Quartet and became first violinist of I Musici. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in New York in 1966 with Rudolf Serkin, with whom she formed a long association. From 1963 she performed annually in the chamber concerts at the Marlboro Music Festival. She taught for many years at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She died in 1993 at the age of seventy-nine.
At the end of the opening orchestral tutti of Brahms Violin Concerto, I find Carmirelli a little lacking dramatic punch, and as the movement progresses the pace and feel are a little too laid back for my liking. Maybe Erich Schmid should take some of the blame for not taking the lead and injecting a little more urgency into the reading. Nevertheless, there are some raptly intense moments which tug at the heart strings. She employs the Joachim cadenza with nonchalant ease. The central Adagio is fervent and glowing, with the oboe solo at the beginning beguiling. The Hungarian finale has sufficient fire and passion, and you certainly won’t feel short- changed.
The Prokofiev First Concerto was completed in 1917 for the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski, who advised the composer on technical matters. It was long championed by both Josef Szigeti and David Oistrakh. I’ve always preferred it to the Second Concerto. Carmirelli is one of those violinists who possess the tonal opulence and kaleidoscopic range of colour to do this work full justice. I love the way she shapes the natural lyrical outpourings of the dreamy introduction. There’s a glorious section eight minutes in when the violin’s high reaches are accompanied by harp and woodwinds. Ernest Bour proves an inspirational collaborator in the way he supports the soloist, bringing out the very best in her playing. The Scherzo is delivered with outwardly dashing virtuosity, and is both spiky and mercurial. The finale alternates rhapsodic elements with gruff dance rhythms. Carmirelli’s double stops are effortless.

The Prokofiev is, without doubt, the gem here, and the disc is worth the price for this performance alone.

Lynn Ludwig’s restorations are beyond reproach, and both performances emerge fresh and fine. Documentation by Michael Waiblinger is first class. These recordings make a significant contribution to an otherwise scant discography and should be enthusiastically embraced by violin fanciers.
This is playing distinguished by refinement, artful musicianship and polish.

Stephen Greenbank

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