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Felix Salmond (cello)
The Complete Columbia Recordings (1926-30)
Felix Salmond (cello), Simeon Rumschisky (piano), Harry Kaufman (piano)
rec. 1926-1930, New York City
BIDDULPH 85009-2 [77:35 + 66:35]

Felix Salmond (1888-1952) was Britain’s leading cellist, though the public was drawn more to Beatrice Harrison. This was largely because Salmond left for American in 1922, his acoustic recordings for Vocalion, though excellent, hardly penetrating national musical consciousness. It was Harrison who made the first recordings of the Elgar Concerto, both acoustic and electric, with the composer conducting, though Salmond had premiered the work and was much admired by Elgar.

This twofer collects all the British cellist’s Columbia recordings made in New York between 1926 and 1930 though it doesn’t include his one studio chamber recording, Schubert’s B-flat trio with Jelly d’Arányi and Myra Hess. Many cellists had recorded by 1930 but it’s clear that Columbia was setting Felix Salmond against its rival Victor’s star performer – and the greatest and most prominent cellist of the period – Pablo Casals. Where Casals had led in his discs, so Salmond often followed.

There is now significant overlap in competing transfers of many - but not all – of Felix Salmond’s Columbias. Pristine Audio has released two single discs – see volumes one and two – which take a deliberately rather less focused view and where you can read my comments on some of the recordings, notably the major sonata sets: Beethoven and Grieg. The first disc of Biddulph’s twofer has the most overlap and only the Bach and the two Schumann pieces are heard in their own transfers. The Bach Arioso is nobly expressive, leanly sung, and very different to the more overtly powerful recording, made at around the same time, by the great French player, Maurice Maréchal. Schumann’s Träumerei and Abendlied, in the Popper arrangement, were recorded at different times but share a similar sense of refinement. Casals had recorded both pieces very early in 1926 so this is certainly a Columbia riposte.

In the second disc, Pergolesi’s evergreen Tre giorni offers a perfect fit for Salmond’s unsentimental but warm legato with its rounded sound and precise tone production. The sprightly up-tempo Sammartini movement, with its vivid range of voicings and up-tempo bowing finesse, shows how suave Salmond could be in the baroque repertoire – no matter that this was probably composed by Martin Bertau and not Sammartini at all. Godard’s Berceuse from Jocelyn, which bears a rather higher ratio of surface noise than its disc confrères – comes from a Franco-American recording session of April 1927; Pierné and MacDowell were also included that day. Après un rêve reinforces his idiomatic eloquence in the music of the French school and this is once again a case of Salmond following in Casals’ discographic footsteps as the Catalan cellist, whose arrangement it is, recorded it in January 1926.

Salmond always phrases beautifully, as the Andante from Goltermann’s Concerto shows very well – Casals had recorded it acoustically in the First World War – and there’s a welcome example of his Granados in the form of the Goyescas Intermezzo, though you won’t need me reminding you by now that you-know-who recorded it three years before Salmond. There are a couple of light noises on the Rachmaninov In the Stillness of the Night and I’m not sure if they’re pressing faults or not whilst To a Wild Rose is delightfully light and lissom, Salmond varying his vibrato speed and weight beautifully.

Apart from the Vocalions - Pristine has reissued the rare LP housing the three 1948 Beethoven Sonatas - there is not much more Salmond to be uncovered. He wasn’t fortunate enough to have been engaged to make concerto recordings and he found it increasingly difficult to make headway in the limited world open to cellists in America at the time, not least when Casals, Feuermann and Piatigorsky were active. There are some surviving broadcasts, though they are torsos. Arbiter released examples from of the Trio of New York - Carl Friedberg (piano), Danil Karpilovsky (violin) and Salmond – playing Brahms in 1939 (see review). The late Allan Evans (of Arbiter), who did so much to retrieve historic broadcast material, told me he was planning a Salmond release and confirmed the works that had survived, which included complete trios by Beethoven and Schubert and solo recital material from 1939 including all five Beethoven sonatas. We must hope that Evans’ torch will pass to someone equally dedicated and that this material will be released.

I mustn’t omit to mention Tully Potter’s really first-class booklet note.

The question as to which of Pristine or Biddulph to buy, largely depends on your priorities. If you want the body of the Columbias your choice is clear, whereas if you prefer a wider look at Salmond’s legacy, than Pristine may have more to offer. What this release does offer is a Battle Royale between two of the leading transfer engineers of our time, Ward Marston for Biddulph and Mark Obert-Thorn for Pristine. There’s hardly anything between them but, in the two major sonatas – Grieg and Beethoven - it’s noticeable that Ward Marston, as is his wont, has brought the sound forward. Both transfers are superb in their own ways.

Jonathan Woolf

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Arioso, from Concerto in F minor, BWV1056 [3:50]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1828)
7 Variations on “Bei Männern” from Die Zauberflöte [9:44]
Cello Sonata No 3 in A major, Op 69 (1807-08) [23:17]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Träumerei, from Kinderszenen, Op 15 (1838) [3:15]
Abendlied, No 12 from Klavierstücke für kleine und grosse Kinder, Op 85 arr Popper [3:10]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Largo, from Cello Sonata in G minor, Op 65 (1846) [3:29]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces Book 3: To Spring, Op 43 No 6, arr cello (1886) [3:08]
Cello Sonata in A minor, Op 36 (1883) [27:18]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Tre giorni son che Nina (attributed) [3:31]
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (1700-1775)
Allegro, from Cello Sonata in G (attributed) [3:08]
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Berceuse, from Jocelyn (1888) [3:06]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Adagietto from L’Arlésienne (1872) [2:42]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Swan, from Carnival of the Animals (1886) [2:42]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse (Cradle Song), Op 16 (1879) [3:39]
Trois melodies: Après un rêve, Op 7 No 1 (pub 1878) arr Pablo Casals [2:38]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Minuet, from Petite Suite (1886-89) [2:58]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Serenade, Op 7 (1881) [3:16]
Antonio de PIANELLI (1747-1803)
Villanelle arr. Joseph Salmon [3:45]
Georg GOLTERMANN (1824-1898)
Cello Concerto No 1, Op 14: Andante (1852) [3:14]
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Gavotte in D major, Op 23 [3:42]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Intermezzo, from Goyescas (Los majos enamorados) (1909-11) [4:16]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Sérénade espagnole, Op 20 No 2 (1888) [2:51]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
In the Stillness of the Night, Op 4 No 3 [3:08]
Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908)
To a Wild Rose, from Woodland Sketches, Op 51 (1896) [2:14]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Mélodie, H99 (1911) [3:49]
Londonderry Air, arr. O’Connor-Morris [3:47]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Kol Nidrei, Op 47 (1881) [8:20]

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