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Jonathan Woolf
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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata Op 5 No 6 arr. Spalding [11:15]
Sonata Op 5 No 1 [12:09]
Sonata Op 5 No 12 ‘La Follia’: Prelude arr. Spalding [6:16]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Twelve Sonatas and Pastorale, Op 1; No 10 ‘Didone abbandonata’ [12:00]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well-Tempered Clavier; Prelude and Fugue No 14, BWV883: Prelude arr. Spalding [3:57]
Albert Spalding (violin)
Anthony Kooiker (piano)
rec. 1951

Albert Spalding held the title of ‘The Greatest American Violinist’ until the emergence of Menuhin. Born in Chicago in 1888, he was the son of an affluent business man in sporting goods. He studied in Florence, where his family spent the winter months, and in America in the summers. At fourteen he graduated at the Bologna Conservatory. He later spent two years studying in Paris with Augustin Lefort, and made his debut there in 1905. He spent World War I in service, then embarked on a solo career. He also enlisted for service in World War II. Around 1950 he retired, and died in 1953.

Well-educated and cultivated, he was described as a ‘gentleman and scholar’. He was the author of a couple of books. Although of no particular school of violin playing, his art was forged along progressive lines. He was noted for a rapid vibrato and a beauty of tone. Yet, as these recordings reveal, he didn’t possess a wide-ranging palette of colour, and his playing can sound rather one-dimensional. Although he retired from the concert platform in 1950, he continued to make recordings. At around this time he was approached by Remington to make some recordings in Europe under the supervision of Laszlo Halasz, Remington's Recording Director. These recordings of Baroque works, an area he excelled in, date from around 1951.

Corelli’s Op 5 amounts to twelve sonatas, and Spalding performs three of them with one of his regular accompanists Anthony Kooiker. Two of them, Nos 6 and 12 (La Follia) are in his own arrangement, the other is No 5, which is left untampered with. These are ingeniously crafted works and hold a significant place in the history of violin playing. The warmth and intimacy of Spalding’s playing suits them down to the ground. His approach to ornamentation is intelligent, thoughtful and within the bounds of good taste. The most famous Sonata of the set is No 12, the single movement, much fêted ‘La Follia’, a chaconne based on a Portuguese folk dance. It’s undergone many arrangements over time, and Spalding’s own effort of the Corelli version is cut. Nevertheless it provides a vehicle for some sensational virtuosic display. Kooiker’s discreet and sensitive accompaniments add greatly to the success of the readings. Both instrumentalists are superbly balanced in the mix.

Spalding had previously set down an inscription of Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ with André Benoist, but here he turns his hand to the composer’s ‘Didone abbandonata’ Sonata. Once again elegance and refined phrasing are the order of the day. The final Grave has grandeur and nobility of gesture. The elaborate ornamentation is well-tuned to the stylistic requirements of the music. The Bach Prelude, again in an arrangement by Spalding, is played with ardent endeavour.

Forgotten Records offer superb transfers of Remington RLP-199-23 and Concerteum CR281. No notes are provided.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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